In the meantime…some Philosophy

I am researching a book on miniatures at the world’s fairs (from 1851 to 1939) and also miniature artworks and the philosophy of miniatures (yes, there is such a thing). Here is a paragraph from a brochure for a 1989 show in New York (Whitney Museum at Philip Morris) called “Miniature Environments.” It sounds like what we do.

The miniaturization of scale is a strategy for making art unintimidating and approachable and for inducing physical —and emotional proximity. The affective nature of miniature artworks comes from childhood associations, which the toylike scale activates, and from the sense of secretiveness or of sharing private visions that smallness engenders. Artists also consider the beholder’s position relative to the work of art: should it be from on high, to create a feeling of omnipotence; or should the work be viewed at eye level, which offers a sense of equivalence; or should the viewer, like Alice in Wonderland, look through a peephole? The size, shape, depth, and placement of this aperture in miniature box constructions are designed to guide our approach to the work and control our manner of viewing… Our reactions to miniature artworks are sometimes complex. With objects so small we could cradle them in our hands, we feel authoritative and in control. Who cannot grasp the meaning of something whose parts are only inches high? Yet the densely packed or layered nature of some miniature art exerts a powerful hold over us.

One comment

  1. The description moved me. When I encountered the word “secretiveness,” I felt a visceral jolt, as if someone were revealing my private experience. Miniatures are indeed a source of intimacy for me—clearly, for others, too.

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