Tuesday, July 21, 2009
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 theatrical and historic beginnings, are today mainly done by grade school kids in shoe boxes, as riders to a book report. I felt that in the hands of competent artists, a diorama is a form with almost endless possibilities. The show features a list of artists so long that I could really only scan it—twenty-seven in total. It didn't stop me, however, and I would suggest that it doesn't stop you from seeing this eclectic examination of scaled-down space.
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, bookshelves, art made by children, and the front and rear screen doors. The show, as I am sure all of Home Gallery's shows are, is allowed to interact 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. This is all very important while thinking about the art/spaces made for this show.
I stood in front of Tree Line by Luftwerk (Sean Gallero and Poul Bachmaier). This imaginative piece consisted of a couple small dioramas that utilized 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, starring into Frank's spaces. He carves 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 entitled Tiger. This piece 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 and loving home. Diorama completely blurs the lines between life and art- and inspires an understanding of why it is so good to have art in our daily surroundings.
This show proves what folksy people have been telling us for generations; Home is where the heart is.