Depicting Translations of Realities and Surrealities

The use of sculpture in photography has been around for a while, as seen in the works of Hans Bellmer, Man Ray, Claude Cahun, and others. It is the instances that present undeniable human parallels that can be the most provocative. The inspiration for this post comes from an upcoming summer exhibition at the Museum of Art and Design called Otherworldly: Optical Delusions and Small Realities. The show highlights artists who use miniatures to recreate scenes of realities or alternate versions of landscape, nature, and their surrounding urban environments.

Some photographers of miniatures and mannequins in the ICP Collection present similar styles of haunting and often invasive projections of reality.

David Levinthal (American, b. 1949) uses miniatures and toy figures to recreate scenes from eras before his birth, including those in the historical context of World War II, the Wild West, and more.

David Levinthal, [Untitled], from the Hitler moves East series, 1974

David Levinthal, [Untitled], from the Wild West series, 1994

Laurie Simmons (American, b. 1949), born the same year as Levinthal, uses miniatures and toy figures of females to recreate her perception of 1950s female household idling. Erin Barnett, Assistant Curator at the ICP, recently posted our recent acquisitions of Simmons’ 1978–79 series. You can revisit it here.

Here is one of her more recent pieces she worked on with her husband Carroll Dunham.

Set designed by Carroll Dunham, Photograph by Laurie Simmons, [Untitled], 1993

On a larger scale, Life photographer Loomis Dean (American, 1917–2005) used mannequins to display the effects of the Operation Cue atomic bomb tests in Nevada in 1955.

Loomis Dean, [Scorched and disheveled male mannequin clad in dark business suit standing in desert with lady mannequin in background, 7,000 ft. from the 44th nuclear test explosion, a day after the blast, indicating that humans could be burnt but still alive], 1955

If you visit the exhibit at the Museum of Art and Design this summer, be sure to check out some of the works by emerging artists who use photography to document their miniatures, including Peter Feigenbaum’s Trainset Ghetto series and Lori Nix’s The City.

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