IU’s Grunwald Gallery of Art presents a modern examination of The Miniature

Thomas Doyle

“The Miniature” includes “Proxy (Haven Ln.),” an enigmatic diorama created by Thomas Doyle.

Putting together an exhibition of miniatures is no small task.

It’s actually a complicated show to present, said Betsy Stirratt, director of the Grunwald Gallery. She served as curator of the show, along with artist Althea Crome of Bloomington.

The Miniature” will be unveiled to the public Friday, Aug. 28, following a 5 p.m. talk by Joe Fig, one of 10 artists featured from around the country.


This chest crafted by William R. Robertson features a working lock.

“People are fascinated by miniatures,” Stirratt said. “These small-scale things require more attention from the viewer and are collected all over the world.”

Gallery visitors can expect to see tiny houses; delicate handmade furniture; replicas of major paintings; intricate tools and scientific instruments; and hand-knit gloves that are smaller than a single fingertip.

Mixed in among the tiny treasures are more sizable sculptures. These dioramas capture detailed interiors and landscapes, both real and imagined.

Blane de St. Croix, an associate professor at the Hope School of Fine Arts, has referred to his sculpture “Two Ends” as a “monumental miniaturized landscape.” The piece is an exhaustively researched representation of the border between Mexico and the United States. The Tijuana end shows a guarded fence, while its opposite end remains empty and spare.

Dioramas made by Thomas Doyle are enigmatic, dreamlike and often apocalyptic. They depict aftermath and the remnants of ordinary life, all the while enticing viewers to puzzle over what might have led up the frozen, unsettling moments.

More miniaturists

In addition to Crome, de St. Croix, Doyle and Fig, the exhibiting artists are Matthew Albanese, Nell Corkin, Mark Murphy, William R. Robertson, Lee‐Ann Chellis Wessel and Michael Yurkovic. Each has a specialty.

Lee‐Ann Chellis Wessel

Lee‐Ann Chellis Wessel paints majolica and Renaissance art, including this replica of a Fillipo Lippi portrait.

Chellis Wessel crafts tiny versions of majolica pottery and paints replicas of famous Renaissance paintings in egg tempera.

Crome is an “extreme knitter,” who makes intricate sweaters and gloves, mostly at 1/12 scale. To do so, she has fashioned her own knitting needles from stainless steel wires. At times she has challenged herself even further by working at 1/12 of that size, down to the truly tiny 1/144 scale.

Robertson is internationally known for creating meticulous scientific instruments and tools. In addition to examples of his work, the exhibition features a short video on his working methods and devotion to historical accuracy. He discovered century-old stocks of rare wood and velvet in Paris. He worked with a 100-year-old lathe. And in the end, those efforts show in his work.

Different angles

Making miniatures demands patience, precision and obsessive attention to detail.

Althea Crome Warhol Cardigan

Althea Crome knit this “Warhol Cardigan.”

“This show contains work of artisans and artists. They approach miniatures from different perspectives,” Stirratt said. “There are different kinds of creativity expressed here.”

Artisans use consummate craftsmanship to create exact replicas. Artists tend to focus on a specific idea and how to best express that through small forms.

What both groups share is a common commitment to extensive research. “They research the history of the objects and the way things are constructed, the tools used to make these things,” she said.

There is another thing both groups of miniaturists have in common. “They’re amazing people,” Stirratt said.

Openings, special programs

Wm. R. Robertson

William R. Robertson’s “Gold Microscope” has working optics.

Fig will deliver a lecture at 5 p.m. Aug. 28 in Room 102 of the Fine Arts Building. In his work, he sculpts and then photographs dioramas of artists at work in their studios. An opening reception for “The Miniature” will follow from 6 to 8 p.m. in the Grunwald Gallery.

Doyle will talk about his apocalyptic dioramas in a lecture at 5 p.m. Sept. 4 in Fine Arts Room 102.

Robertson and Crome will demonstrate their techniques at noon Friday, Sept. 11, in the gallery.

Also opening in the Grunwald Gallery on Aug. 28 will be the exhibition “Halston: Line and Legacy.” Public programs in conjunction with the show of clothing by the iconic 20th-century designer and former IU student will begin Sept. 8. On that day, IU professor Kate Rowold of the fashion design and culture group will speak about “Dressing Disco: Fashion in the Age of Halston” at 4 p.m. in the Whittenberger Auditorium at the Indiana Memorial Union.

Both “The Miniature” and “Halston: Line and Legacy” exhibitions will continue through Oct. 3.

Joe FIg self portrait

Joe Fig constructs and photographs detailed dioramas of artists at work in their studios. Here, Fig’s self-portrait is a photograph of a diorama. Fig will speak at 5 p.m. Aug. 28.

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