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10 Amazing Artists Working With Miniature Models

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We’ve seen how artists can take life-sized landscapes and make them appear to be tiny models through the use of tilt-shift photography, so now let’s look at the opposite end of the spectrum: the world of miniature art.

Balsa Wood Manhattan

Michael Chesko was a software engineer at Motorola when he started building skyscraper models in his free time with X-ACTO knives, fingernail files and balsa wood. Eventually, he became so obsessed with his miniatures that he realized they could no longer be just a hobby.

His Manhattan model was based on the pre-9/11 skyline and he relied on blueprints, photos and satellite images to guide him. He didn’t even have any first-hand knowledge of the city because he didn’t visit until his project was completed –a task that took over 2000 hours of work.

When the dust settled, his model was 36” by 30” and used a 1:3200 scale. For those interested in viewing Chesko’s work of art, it’s now on display at the Skyscraper Museum in midtown New York.

Sweetness

Meshac Gaba’s contribution to “Port City” is even sweeter than Chesko’s model and that’s not a subjective claim –Gaba’s work is made entirely of sugar. His work, included in a larger model show in Liverpool that was dedicated to the imaginary Port City, features some of the most famous buildings on earth, including the Eiffel Tower, the Taj Mahal, the Sydney Opera House and more. No word on if it survived after the show ended in 2008, but if it did get destroyed, let’s hope it was by an army of giant (looking) ants.

Image courtesy of Chrys Omori’s Flickr stream.

Urban Sculptures

New York native Alan Wolfson is a big fan of his home town, such a big fan that he bases his main body of work on creating miniature street scenes that look like they’ve been sliced right out of the Big Apple. Interestingly, Wolfson almost never depicts buildings and businesses the way they actually looked. Instead, he combines real buildings and company signs he sees in photos with imaginary ones to help tell a story about the street scene he has created.

For example, “Follies Burlesk” was based on the real Follies Burlesk on 46th and Broadway, but that real business stood on top of a Howard Johnson’s restaurant, and both companies looked decidedly 50’s. Wolfson decided to make the scene look like it existed much later in time and added a classic New York hot dog place, an adult book store and a movie theater screening The Terminator.

What’s truly amazing about his work though is the level of detail he puts into his scenes. For example, in “Canal St. Cross-Section,” you can not only view the subway underground, but explore the buildings and the subway through windows in the side of the creation.

Miniature Manhattan

New York certainly has a lot of fans in the model-making community. What makes Randy Hage’s creations stand apart though is just how amazingly accurate his vintage building faces actually are.

While Wolfson likes to create imaginary scenes from the big city, Hage uses photos of real New York businesses and then sculpts them at 1/12 their size, in an effort to preserve these landmark structures that are becoming increasingly replaced by national chains. His works are so accurate that without a caption, sometimes it can be difficult to tell which photo shows a real building and which shows his model.

Elgin Park

While most model city artists focus on the buildings, Michael Paul Smith seems to be fascinated with the vehicles. In fact, his intricate city scenes, set inside his imaginary town of Elgin Park, serve more as a background to his fantastic die cast car collection. His lovely retro scenes portray an idealized small-town America that is based on the Pennsylvania town Smith grew up in and the backgrounds and vehicles even range throughout the decades.

The Elgin Park series became so popular on Flickr that Smith has since published an entire book of photos showing the beauty of the non-existent town.

The City

From Mad Max to the Fall Out game series to Cormac McCarthy’s The Road, humans are obsessed with the idea of life after the apocalypse. Contributing to the many visions of this disastrous world is photographer Lori Nix.

In her quest to show what a world without humans might look like, Nix has taken up the art of model-making. The resulting creations could easily be used as source material for any number of post-apocalyptic movies, games or TV shows.

Distillation

Thomas Doyle’s Distillation series features a variety of sweet family scenes that have been twisted into something darker: a family’s home is destroyed with a huge crater; beautiful parks are enclosed in glass domes revealing destroyed houses below; a family stares in wonder as their home is now upside down and mostly under ground. The result is a series of beautiful, sad and surreal stories that the viewer must create for themself.

Little People

Street artist Slinkachu has made quite a name for himself over the years by creating striking and fascinating scenes right on the city streets with nothing more than tiny figurines placed in strategic locations.

The art installations have become so popular that Slinkachu has even been able to publish four books of his work and maintain a widely-read blog on the creations.

Pothole Gardens

Steve Wheen’s work is similar to that of Slinkachu in that they both place tiny details outside in the huge real world, but Wheen’s focus is on tiny pothole gardens complete with props for tiny, invisible people.

Like many of the others on this list, Wheen has since published a book of his many projects, titled The Little Book of Little Gardens.

Mini Models

While most model artists either focus on the buildings or the people, Joe Fig is unique in that he constructs entire buildings for his tiny artists to live and work in. Here you can see his interpretation of Jackson Pollock’s massive barn-turned-studio and if you look inside the doorways and windows, you’ll see a tiny version of the master flinging paint across canvas. Interestingly, Fig has even done a self-portrait in the same style, showing him inside his home, working on a tiny version of his own house.

For a deeper look into Fig’s world, you can always take a look at his book, Inside the Painter’s Studio.

Have any of you ever worked on your own models? If so, can you give us some insight on just how much time and effort goes into creating these works of art?

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Thomas Quine, Flickr // CC BY 2.0
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Weird
Take a Peek Inside One of Berlin's Strangest Museums
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Thomas Quine, Flickr // CC BY 2.0

Vlad Korneev is a man with an obsession. He's spent years collecting technical and industrial objects from the last century—think iron lungs, World War II gas masks, 1930s fans, and vintage medical prostheses. At his Designpanoptikum in Berlin, which bills itself (accurately) as a "surreal museum of industrial objects," Korneev arranges his collection in fascinating, if disturbing, assemblages. (Atlas Obscura warns that it's "half design museum, half horror house of imagination.") Recently, the Midnight Archive caught up with Vlad for a special tour and some insight into the question visitors inevitably ask—"but what is it, really?" You can watch the full video below.

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Courtesy of Nikon
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science
Microscopic Videos Provide a Rare Close-Up Glimpse of the Natural World
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Courtesy of Nikon

Nature’s wonders aren’t always visible to the naked eye. To celebrate the miniature realm, Nikon’s Small World in Motion digital video competition awards prizes to the most stunning microscopic moving images, as filmed and submitted by photographers and scientists. The winners of the seventh annual competition were just announced on September 21—and you can check out the top submissions below.

FIRST PRIZE

Daniel von Wangenheim, a biologist at the Institute of Science and Technology Austria, took first place with a time-lapse video of thale cress root growth. For the uninitiated, thale cress—known to scientists as Arabidopsis thalianais a small flowering plant, considered by many to be a weed. Plant and genetics researchers like thale cress because of its fast growth cycle, abundant seed production, ability to pollinate itself, and wild genes, which haven’t been subjected to breeding and artificial selection.

Von Wangenheim’s footage condenses 17 hours of root tip growth into just 10 seconds. Magnified with a confocal microscope, the root appears neon green and pink—but von Wangenheim’s work shouldn’t be appreciated only for its aesthetics, he explains in a Nikon news release.

"Once we have a better understanding of the behavior of plant roots and its underlying mechanisms, we can help them grow deeper into the soil to reach water, or defy gravity in upper areas of the soil to adjust their root branching angle to areas with richer nutrients," said von Wangenheim, who studies how plants perceive and respond to gravity. "One step further, this could finally help to successfully grow plants under microgravity conditions in outer space—to provide food for astronauts in long-lasting missions."

SECOND PRIZE

Second place went to Tsutomu Tomita and Shun Miyazaki, both seasoned micro-photographers. They used a stereomicroscope to create a time-lapse video of a sweating fingertip, resulting in footage that’s both mesmerizing and gross.

To prompt the scene, "Tomita created tension amongst the subjects by showing them a video of daredevils climbing to the top of a skyscraper," according to Nikon. "Sweating is a common part of daily life, but being able to see it at a microscopic level is equal parts enlightening and cringe-worthy."

THIRD PRIZE

Third prize was awarded to Satoshi Nishimura, a professor from Japan’s Jichi Medical University who’s also a photography hobbyist. He filmed leukocyte accumulations and platelet aggregations in injured mouse cells. The rainbow-hued video "provides a rare look at how the body reacts to a puncture wound and begins the healing process by creating a blood clot," Nikon said.

To view the complete list of winners, visit Nikon’s website.

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