Current Obsession: Lori Nix’s spellbinding post-apocalyptic miniatures

Current Obsession: Lori Nix’s spellbinding post-apocalyptic miniatures

To be a regular at the bar pictured here, you’d have to be no more than an inch tall. The whole scene is only about two feet square—too small even for a down-on-his-luck Ken doll. It’s the creation of Brooklyn photographer Lori Nix, who has spent more than a decade creating tiny, elaborate and painstakingly detailed dioramas. She builds the sets out of foam, cardboard, clay, glue, plastic and paper, as well as found objects, then photo­graphs them, playing with light and perspective to make the scenes appear life-sized. The whole process can take up to seven months. Once she has a photo she’s happy with, she often destroys the set, or strips it for parts. In her latest series, The City, on view this month at the Bau-Xi Gallery, Nix drew on her love of ’70s disaster films for scenes from a fictional, post-apocalyptic metropolis in which offices, libraries, beauty parlours and laundromats are depicted in various states of hastily abandoned disrepair. The images are brilliantly disturbing, with a countervailing streak of whimsy. However curious we are about the horrific fate that befell this little burg, what we really want to know is how the hell this all got made. Here, some of the steps involved in creating Bar, just one of the exhibit’s mind-boggling photographs.

The scene is based on a bar Nix frequented in college. The owner was a hunter who had trophies mounted on the walls.

The building outside the window is a photograph of a miniature exterior Nix had in her studio.

Not everything is made in Nix’s studio: the ceiling tiles are the kind often used in doll houses. (The bar stools are also mail-order.)

A revolving beer sign was the first thing Nix knew she wanted in the scene. The one she made has a logo of a Bavarian band marching in circles.

Nix’s assistant made silicone moulds of the miniature bottles in her collection and cast them in clear resin. The labels are vintage postage stamps.

Getting the daylight to look natural took nearly a week and the careful placement of a half-dozen strobe lights.

The video game is Galaga, which was the artist’s favourite when she was a kid. She found the graphics for the games on fan sites.

Once the interior scene was finished, Nix used a process of multiple paint washes to make everything appear aged and abandoned.

The City
by Lori Nix
Bau-Xi gallery
July 7 to 21