Last Saturday I did the unthinkable—I went to Hyde Park to look at some art that wasn’t at the south side holy trinity (Hyde Park Art Center, Renaissance Society, Smart Museum). Sure, I could have headed over to the West Loop or River North art districts, but I heard about this diorama show, and there was no way I was going to miss it. Dioramas, although they have historically theatrical beginnings, are today mainly done by grade-school kids in shoe boxes. In the hands of a competent artist, though, a diorama is a form with almost endless imaginative qualities. In a show with a list of artists so long that I could really only scan it—twenty-seven in total—it seems the smaller the space, the greater the possibilities.
Home Gallery, where “The Diorama Show” opened on July 18, is everything the name suggests: a home being used as a gallery. To walk into this space is to seriously walk into someone’s house, as in, please wipe your feet. Unlike most live/work studio shows, there was very little living space separated from the public during an opening. Art is displayed in the bedroom, bathroom, kitchen and everywhere else (except the kids’ room, who apparently put a stop to that last year).
Curated by Laura Shaeffer, co-owner and inhabitant of Home Gallery, “The Diorama Show” exists in-between, as well as beyond, the bookshelves and the front and rear screen doors. The show, as I am sure all of Home Gallery’s shows are, interacts with a real living space. People live here, there is art on the wall, and in the front porch, and next to the A+ report on the praying mantis; art is everywhere.
I stood in front of “Tree Line” by Luftwerk (Sean Gallero and Poul Bachmaier). This imaginative piece consisted of a couple small dioramas that used video, audio and sculptural elements. In that moment, I couldn’t help but notice how the audio of birds and children interacted seamlessly with my surroundings, which literally consisted of birds and children. I felt dwarfed. As I made my way through the show, concepts of space, its worth as well as its relative fragility, were brought to mind. Size kept getting addressed, often with scale models, but also with large works that required the viewer to look through small holes.
Frank Pollard’s “Agency Field Car” pinned me between it and the vast outside, literally. I stood there, with my back to the large front windows, which opened to a lush green Hyde Park neighborhood, staring into Frank’s spaces. He carved chairs and desks out of popsicle sticks and tongue depressors to create familiar, although less than welcoming, spaces. Eventually I found myself in the backyard which, you guessed it, was another diorama. Taken over by Elke Cluas, the backyard was being guarded, or rather overrun by Tasmanian Tigers, in her piece simply titled “Tiger.” This installation exquisitely replaced the third-grade shoebox with the entire backyard, making it the largest diorama in the collection.
In this show, you will find yourself exploring the spaces of the dioramas as you explore the spaces of a warm home. Dioramas help to blur the lines between life and art, and inspires an understanding of why it is so good to have art in our daily surroundings. (MartinJon)
The Diorama Show is on view at Home, 1407 E. 54th Place, through August 18 by appointment, and they will host a potluck brunch on August 2.