The Tiny Universe of Lori Nix
When we stroll through cathedrals, libraries, bus stops, shopping malls, or any other location, we recognize them because it isn't the first time we've walked through a similar space. The details of Notre Dame may differ from Sacre Coeur, but the general impression and association remains. Lori Nix wouldn't appreciate you walking through any of the places she depicts in her photographs, primarily because they are dioramas, albeit some of the most detailed and exceptional ones that I've ever seen. These aren't your high school science fair level of dioramas, either. In fact, most people that see her work for the first time have no idea that they aren't looking at a film set from a post-apocalyptic blockbuster.
Lori Nix is not only the photographer of these elaborate and exquisitely detailed scenes; she is also the master craftsman that creates these epic landscapes. Some of them take months to create, and the complexity is mind-boggling. She leaves hanging threads on the undersides of chairs that are no bigger than matchbooks and perfectly painted faces in the portraits whose frames are smaller than buttons. Nix wants to create the illusion that you are seeing the real world, and as such, she doesn't skimp on the details in any way. That is why the effect is so startling, particularly when you realize that you are looking at something so small. These miniature worlds are captivating, and the longer you look, the more you see.
Nix clearly has a sense of humor, although it can be a bit dark at times. Her latest work, titled "The City", was just released in a new book in August of 2013, and it has an ominous feel to it. Most notably, there isn't a single person in any of the photos, and the entire series has an eerie post-apocalyptic feel to it, as though a great city had been left to fall into decay and be forgotten.
When asked about her work, Nix is quick to explain that the ominous sensation that many viewers experience when looking at her work is precisely her intention. Her vision of an empty world slowly crumbling back into nature is where Nix sees society heading. Whether it is a manmade disaster, or if nature will somehow press the reset button, she sees the future as a potentially bleak place if we don't change our ways and respect the world we live on. Although the work is static and there are no people or even actions in most of the scenes, they are still dynamic in some way. The slow creep of nature as the ceilings of Broadway theatres and the walls of laundromats collapse is the story here. Despite their somewhat mysterious or creepy feeling, there is also some whimsy and surreality involved.
Her earlier work focused on disasters or other dangerous situations, but her more recent work focuses on the aftermath, and the reclamation of the world once mankind has disappeared. It isn't the most uplifting subject matter, but it does raise some interesting questions. Furthermore, Nix creates these seemingly massive spaces in tiny cereal box sized spaces, and in a metaphysical sense, the greatness of mankind being reduced to such a small level reflects the insignificance and fraigility of life. If humans disappeared from the planet, our time here would be an infinitesimally small fraction of the planet's long history. The scale of Nix's work reflects that undeniable truth of our brief sputter of existence.
For more than 20 years, Lori Nix has been painstakingly designing, creating, and photographing dioramas and scenes as a way to share her vision of the world, and to tell the story of her artistic life. Some of her earlier work had a bit more humor in it, and included a series called "Accidentally in Kansas", which was inspired by her childhood growing up in the US Midwest, where unpredictable weather comes with the territory. Tornadoes, prairie fires, flash floods, and blizzards were the fantastical elements of her youth, and they impacted her in a major way. She extrapolated that same power of nature into her theories on humanity's significance and impact on the planet versus the incredible forces beyond our control.
Nix is also unique and fascinating because of her methodology. Some artists paint their vision of the future, or build sculptures as vessels for social commentary. Other photographers go out into the world and capture reality, which is one of the fundamental purposes of that medium. However, Nix creates a false reality that is almost unmistakeable from the real thing, and then takes her pictures. Without delving too deep into photographic theory, she is faking a fake. Photography attempts to contain a slice of time in perfect pixelized permanence, but it is only an interpretation of reality, as seen through the biased eyes of an artist. Nix complicates the discussion by trying to possess a piece of reality that wasn't really there at all.
Whether she is raising questions about the significance of human life, or expanding discussions on photographic theory, one thing is abundantly clear - Lori Nix knows how to captivate a viewer. Her work is a visual feast, and a testament to the beauty that one person can create through patience and dedication to their vision. She has received acclaim across the globe, and has been featured in dozens of exhibitions. There is a universal appeal to her work that captures our attention at a basic level. Like the prophets of old, Lori Nix offers a realistic vision of the future that may act as a timely warning for all of us.
To see all of Lori Nix's spectacular dioramas or to purchase her latest publication containing all of "The City" photographs, visit her website!
All images are subject to copyright by the artist.