I think I was around 8 or 9 when I tried to build a miniature city in my basement. I used bristol board and started building cardboard skyscrapers (the shortest ones were around 6″ tall while the biggest measured around 18″ in height). I carefully measured grids all the way up and down each of them and meticulously sliced and popped out slits mimicking the highrise international style towers of any North American downtown core. I squished each one full of Christmas lights, turned off the fluorescents above, and felt as powerful as God herself. Unlike God, however, I couldn’t restrain myself from taking my city outside and stomping the living hell out of half of it and setting the other half on fire with my mom’s lighter. I’m guessing New York artist Thomas Doyle has some similar stories from his youth, because this is clearly a man with a deep passion for miniatures. In his series of small-scale models, Doyle opens the door to a “God’s eye view” study of the human experience by taking simple 1:43-scale miniature figurines of families and individuals and placing them in phantasmagorical situations. The stunning collection of glass-encased models reminded me almost instantly of the “tilt-shift” photography effect where normal real-life scenes are photographed in a certain way that makes them seem like miniatures of this scale as well. Or those moments when you look out your airplane window and feel almost as if you can reach out and scoop up a handful of the Earth at arm’s reach. You also feel as if everyone down below on Earth is rolled up in their day-to-day small-scale lives, completely oblivious to the epic scale of the universe they forget they’re floating in. With Thomas’s creations, however, instead of looking out of an airplane window you find yourself peering into a glass dome to reach the same profound level of thoughts about our existence and the meaning of life. Here’s what I found on Thomas’s website:
My work mines the debris of memory through the creation of intricate worlds sculpted in 1:43 scale and smaller. Often sealed under glass, the works depict the remnants of things past—whether major, transformational experiences, or the quieter moments that resonate loudly throughout a life. In much the way the mind recalls events through the fog of time, the works distort reality through a warped and dreamlike lens. The pieces’ radically reduced scales evoke feelings of omnipotence—as well as the visceral sensation of unbidden memory recall. Hovering above the glass, the viewer approaches these worlds as an all-seeing eye, looking down upon landscapes that dwarf and threaten the figures within. Conversely, the private intensity of moments rendered in such a small scale draws the viewer in, allowing for the intimacy one might feel peering into a museum display case or dollhouse. Though surrounded by chaos, hazard, and longing, the figures’ faces betray little emotion, inviting viewers to lose themselves in these crucibles—and in the jumble of feelings and memories they elicit. The glass itself contains and compresses the world within it, seeming to suspend time itself—with all its accompanying anguish, fear, and bliss. By sealing the works in this fashion, I hope to distill the debris of human experience down to single, fragile moments. Like blackboxes bobbing in the flotsam, these works wait for discovery, each an indelible record of human memory.
You can learn more about this brilliant artist by visiting his website at ThomasDoyle.net. And Thomas, I guarantee you this: should I ever be lucky enough to find myself at one of your exhibitions I promise you 100% I will not take your models outside and do to them what I did to mine. But you are more than welcome to recreate that scenario in one of your next miniatures should you ever feel inspired to.