Miniature art may be small in size, but it often makes a big impression. Artists around the world have adopted the diorama as a way to create miniature, three-dimensional scenes from wood, paper, and other everyday objects. From expert model makers to imaginative photographers, read on to discover the work of six diorama artists who transport viewers into tiny, otherworldly environments.
So, what is a diorama? The term “diorama” originated in 1823 in France and referred to a picture-viewing device used for theater shows. The word literally means “through that which is seen,” from the Greek “di” (through) and “orama” (that which is seen, a sight). Today, diorama refers to a three-dimensional model that represents a scene in miniature. They’re often used as educational displays in museums, but there are many contemporary artists who create dioramas as a way to capture particular places, concepts, and ideas.
Here are 6 diorama artists that craft impressively-detailed scenes in miniature.
Artist Randy Hage pays homage to the historical buildings of New York by recreating them in miniature. Hage became particularly interested in old storefronts during the late ‘90s when he was photographing aged cast-iron buildings in SoHo. “The colors, patina, age, disrepair, was quite compelling,” he tells My Modern Met. “These facades have a story to tell, and the owners are an important part of the city’s history. New York storefronts, especially the older Mom and Pop stores, are more than just retail locations, they are an integral part of the community.” The talented artist aims to immortalize these stores before they disappear for good. Each detailed three-dimensional model is carefully handmade from wood, paper, resin, glass, plastic, and metal.
London-based model maker Andy Acres (of Chimerical Reveries) crafts detailed shadow boxes that depict eerie scenes. From derelict farmhouses and old attics to fog-filled forests and gravesites, Acres invites viewers to “peer into another world.” Each miniature, spooky scene is handcrafted with wood, brass screws, plastics, and glass. The framed shadow boxes are often back-lit with LED lights, which can be switched on and off using an antique toggle.
Seattle-based photographer Derrick Lin constructs miniature worlds from everyday office supplies. Tiny figurines are placed among pencils, paperclips, staples, and often the artist’s own coffee mug. Through his dioramas, Lin reflects his own personal experiences. “In addition to humor and whimsy, I started to pay more attention to topics around loneliness, mental health, and kindness,” he reveals. “I strive to depict and spotlight on the kind of thoughts we typically reserve for ourselves.”
Connecticut-based, Syrian-born artist Mohamad Hafez creates architectural dioramas of Middle Eastern urban environments from found objects and scrap metal. An architect by trade, he builds cross-sections of battered streets that are packed with realistic details. Often encased in suitcases and picture frames, each wall-mounted piece is intended to be examined up-close. Hafez hopes his work will highlight the political and social issues of his war-torn homeland, and “expose the Middle East’s conflicts to the world in a modest, artistic approach to appeal to a wider contemporary audience.”
Aleia Murawski and Sam Copeland
Taking a more comical approach to diorama art, Illinois-based Aleia Murawski and Sam Copeland create miniature worlds for snails. These are no ordinary garden snails, though; they live a life of luxury in the creative duo’s elaborate handmade scenes. The slimy critters are pictured sliding up to a limo, basking under the glimmer of a disco ball, and even flying in airplanes.
Greek artist Gregory Grozos gives new life to antique jewelry by encasing miniature scenes inside pocket watches and pendants. Each carefully composed trinket tells a story, and the tiny figurines are placed among little homes, workplaces, and even forests. “A few years ago I had the idea of making an entire tiny world which a person can carry on him or her,” reveals Grozos. “I then started developing ways to do exactly that. My work is very painstaking and most pieces take days or even weeks to complete.”