If the word “miniatures” conjures up images of tiny porcelain dolls pouring tea into tiny teacups, an exhibit in Yonkers is about to change that.
“BadAss Miniatures,” on view through July 22 at D. Thomas Fine Miniatures in the YoHo Artist Studios building, features works by 37 artists from the United States, Canada, Japan and Chile.
Curated by gallerist Darren Scala and Kate Ünver, founder of Instagram page dailymini, BadAss features tiny versions of the mundane, subversive, spooky and decidedly non-dollhouse.
On display are small replicas of a dirty men’s public restroom by Devin Smith, a marijuana dispensary called Green Panda by Amanda Kelly, an old Chinatown teahouse by Danielle McGurran and a gynecologist’s examination table, complete with small stirrups , by Lydia Ricci.
“BadAss Miniatures aims to push the needle on how miniatures are perceived and viewed,” says Scala, who also does more traditional miniatures. “My goal was to elevate them to a contemporary art form.”
Earlier this year, Scala and Ünver posted an open call for artists on the gallery’s website as well as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram asking for submissions “with a bold and daring attitude showcasing jaw-dropping, startling miniature badassery – maybe even shocking”. They received nearly 70 entries. “We were blown away by what we picked up and the enthusiasm of the artists,” Scala said.
Some miniature artists work in exact scale, traditionally 1/12, meaning something a foot long is scaled down to an inch, while others look at their works. Devin Smith, creator of the miniature men’s public toilets, is one of the eyeballers.
Smith’s entry into the world of miniatures came several years ago when his fiancée’s grandmother gave him the Guinness Book of World Records for his birthday and he decided he’d like to be a part of it. “I thought it would be cool to break a world record,” he says.
Smith, who lives in Plover, Wis., was particularly intrigued by what he calls “the smallest thing in the world.” The first little thing he made was a replica of the t-shirt printing shop where he worked, which the owners displayed in their showroom. Next, Smith set out to build the world’s smallest fully functional t-shirt screen printing press, a marvel that took him three months to build. He sent the press to Guinness, but the organization decided it was too specific an idea to include in the book.
Nonetheless, a video of the press in action on dailymini’s Facebook page garnered 5.7 million views, making Smith something of a mini-celebrity. People started contacting him to ask if he could make more miniatures, and for the past two years it’s been his full-time job.
He particularly enjoys recreating old family photos and people’s childhood homes. “Most of what I do is very outdoor,” Smith says. He has over 14,000 followers on his Instagram page, @awesome_thanks.
Brooklyn-based Amanda Kelly, who grew up in Poughkeepsie, started making miniatures professionally about five years ago, but says she’s been intrigued by them since she was a child. In addition to the marijuana dispensary, Kelly’s rendition of artist Tracey Emin’s Turner Prize-nominated work “My Bed” is also on display. Kelly altered the room to include items that reflect her own life, such as a laptop computer and a bottle of Bailey’s Irish Cream, and renamed it “Her Bed”.
Last winter, crystal company Swarovski commissioned Kelly to create four dioramas based on the Oscars sets for its Times Square store. She used thousands of crystals to build the tiny steps, which she took seven days to complete. “No sleep for a week,” she recalls.
Kelly is currently working on New York-inspired pieces, including a tattoo parlour. “Miniatures can be an art form, not just a hobby,” she says. His work can be seen on his website, www.pandaminiatures.com.
Lydia Ricci, creator of the table that strikes fear into the hearts of women, uses all sorts of scraps to make her little objects. “It’s stuff we would throw away,” she said. “It’s not even recyclable.” She creates tiny versions of ordinary objects, such as a rotary telephone, a vintage cigarette machine and a pedestal vacuum cleaner. The end products are exacting in spirit if not in polish, which adds to their deadpan charm.
“I’m an object lover,” says Ricci, who lives in Narberth, Pennsylvania and publishes her work at www.fromscraps.com. Until September 7, an exhibition of around 60 of his pieces entitled “Don’t You Forget About Me” is presented at Morris Adjimi Architects in New York.
Danielle McGurran started making miniatures about a year ago. “I live in small places, so it’s functional that I work so small,” she says. She focuses on what she calls “lost New York” – places that are either throwbacks to another era or have vanished altogether. His contribution to BadAss is an incredibly detailed replica of the Nom Wah teahouse on Doyers Street in Chinatown (founded in 1920). A white plastic pot labeled Kikkoman Soy Sauce serves as an umbrella stand in the entryway, and a gold Lucky Cat figurine peers out the window.
“I love that Nom Wah is still around,” she says. Next step for McGurran: a miniature CBGB.
As Scala says, “Welcome to the disobedient dollhouse.”
View BadAss Figures
Or: D. Thomas Fine Miniatures, YoHo Artist Studios
When: Until July 22
Or: 540 Nepperhan Ave #566, Yonkers
When: Gallery tours by appointment Wed. and Thu. 3-7 and Sat. 11-7. Contact Darren Scala at 914-231-9871.