Though many magazines have gone completely digital, Ellis Library is still home to a large variety of print editions – several of them are probably so obscure you haven’t heard of them, but they’re full of information you wouldn’t normally come across anywhere else.
Take, for example, December/January 2018 edition of American Craft. Erin Powell of our Serials Department couldn’t resist flipping through it when she saw this headline on the cover: “Tiny Scenes of the Apocalypse.”
Who remembers making a diorama in grade school? It’s a common enough project, but Lori Nix and Kathleen Gerber have taken it to new heights (or lows, considering the size of their art) by expanding on the diorama with increasingly complex themes and textures. While Nix and Gerber didn’t study miniature design in college, their combined skills in photography, ceramics, and glass made them perfect partners for creating realistic scenes of disaster and dystopian realism. They’ve gradually moved from store-bought props and empty backgrounds to making nearly every element by hand. Every diorama is extremely detailed and filled with various textures and designs because, as Nix explains, “I don’t know what the camera is going to catch.” Seeing this kind of in-depth art can make you feel a little out of sorts when viewing the photos, as you can’t easily tell which photos portray real life, and which have been created in a studio. Nix actually ran into this problem last summer, when she photographed a grasshopper while visiting her mother here in Missouri. After posting the photo to Instagram, her followers immediately thought it was a model.
Most of their dioramas portray a “post-apocalyptic background,” as part of their ongoing series, The City, which debuted in 2005. Nix and Gerber both have a morbid streak, and their next exhibit, premiering at the end of November, takes the dystopian scenes from indoors to outdoors – from an overgrown library to a vast view of a city skyline. The dioramas are so detailed, the artists are only able to exhibit once every three years or so, but have been able to create their own commercial business, producing dioramas for companies like BBC America and Wired.
While people find a “dark humor” in the works, Nix worries that they “should be doing Utopian scenes” but admits, “it’s not in me.” She asks Gerber, “Do you think we should be making ‘pretty’? Could we even make ‘pretty’?” But neither of them know – they just know this is the art they need to make now.