Does the curator have a diorama fetish?

untitled image by Claire Jackel
Untitled, by Claire Jackel

Root Division had an opening for a group exhibition tonight, an event which happily coincided with an obviously crowded Shepard Fairey opening. The quality of the work was good overall, but what interested me was the large representation of diorama-based photography.

billboard
Billboard, by Ethan Worden

The most successful of the model-based photographs were those of Ethan Worden and Claire Jackel, both of whom created models that were obviously something other than what they represented. The works that became too obsessed with realism failed because their closeness to life prevented the engaging separation from conventional constructs enabled by the plain paper or balsa models. The realistic dioramas just looked like dioramas. The models of plain material looked like something you wouldn’t find in a hobbyist’s basement.

untitled image by Claire Jackel
Untitled, by Claire Jackel

The inclusion of the models used for photography strengthened the presentation of the work. The move allowed the artists’ be candid with their process (not that it was all that secret to begin with). More importantly, it allowed viewers to seek out their own perspective on and relationship to the work. Photography is a record of a thing, but it is a falsehood. By encountering the actual thing photographed, a viewer can feel that they are having a more complete experience. It’s like sharing photos on your digital camera while your friends can still see what you were shooting. “That’s the subject over there, you can make up your mind about it, but here is my unique take.”

vanessa marsh
unknown, by Vanessa Marsh

It’s interesting to see that diorama-based photography has taken such strong hold, and I’m looking forward to seeing people begin to innovate with it. Hopefully one of the artists in this show will continue to push the boundaries of their image making and create something striking and original from their technique.