Symbolic Dioramas

Mode for Trane


A little over a week ago, I posted a blog “In the Countryside of New Albany, Ohio” reported on the idea of a new type of diorama that might represent, symbolically, the conflict seen here in Central Ohio where farmland meets giant Amazon, Google and FaceBook warehouses. Now, a few miles from our town, the new Intel Chip plant. It seems a conflict between the old America and the new America.

The above diorama was created by reducing down a little German made laser-cut barn kit to 60% of its already small Z sale size. So the scale above probably the almost unheard of small scale, half of Z scale. Probably 1/440th or something like this. This was made to be a mock-up for a larger diorama on a 12″ x 24″ board. Learned a lot in the making of this little diorama. And feel it represents my feelings – and many others back here – about the intrusion of technology into the Ohio countryside.

I wasn’t interested in getting every little detail into the scene like some modelers approach things. Spending weeks or months on a particular model. It’s totally beyond me.

I was aiming for the suggestion of a symbolism in the above. What is a more traditional American saying than “Chew Mail Pouch Tobacco.” And what is more a sign of our modern times than the sign and logo of “Amazon?” In the image, the two are separated by just a little two-lane country road. The crops of the farm are not up but the fields have been plowed. The colors and model for the Amazon warehouse from the real one near us.

The Completed Mock Up of the Ohio Countryside Diorama / With Scene Extending into Background

Our readers will notice that the final mock-up is above fitted with a background photo (pulled from the Internet) and pasted onto a screen that continues the road over hills and disappearing over the black line of a road I created on the background of the photo. I wish some great Plein Air artist would take this background scene to new heights. It is meant to blend with the trees in the diorama I would like to see a bright blue sky the same color as the blue in the Amazon building stripe. But then, maybe the sky creating the atmosphere of the day is somewhat great and ambiguous like the sky in the screen photo above.

I continue to explore the interface between the diorama and the screen in the back. In the above scene, I want it very basic. It has to be since it’s on a small 10″ x 8″ board artist’s board. Does the background screen add something to the diorama? I further explore ideas with this diorama that were explored recently in the diorama The Insurance Appraiser diorama I made for a friend in this business.

Here, the background (a true photo of one of the fire devastation scene) my friend, an insurance appraiser, sees when I ride with him on a job. The photo I take of the fire damage becomes part of the diorama. In a similar way, the road in the diorama of the Ohio countryside, goes into the photo and becomes part of the photo.

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The small mock-up above for the continuation of my interest in creating dramatic, storytelling, symbolic dioramas. Drama and satire and humor of creating contemporary diorama scenes are more interesting to me than the precision of fine detailing objects of the past. The creation of dioramas. Like a form of child’s play in such a large sense. A remembrance of childhood through this type of play. Certainly a lot of psychology in creating these miniature worlds. I saw it in my father and other men who had model railroading as a hobby.

My continued interest in dioramas is returning after completing my book on screenwriting Hollywood Safari. A survey of screenwriting theories. A product of my love of writing. But after the book, a return of a boyhood love and passion in model building and model railroading. Working with my father in the basement of our home in the midwest from the early to mid-sixties. Building a huge 15′ x 30′ HO layout taking up almost the whole basement of our home.

The magical modelers like John Allen I had as a hero for so many years. The model railroad he created was – for the first time – made up of dramatic scenes. People in the scenery of his HO Gorre & Daphetid Railroad in Monterey, California. I knew what was possible in this world of model railroading. Much more than trains running around tracks. There was a particular psychology attached to the hobby of model building and model railroading as a hobby when I was growing up. It was a passion of my father.

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All this has led to an interest in dioramas. Not anything as new as other than the cyclic return of a passionate old muse of mine. In model railroading. Somewhere in creating these small worlds. Much like my father. Not creating a model railroad layout. But rather dioramas that might go onto some model railroad layout. Why not a diorama without a layout? A much more spontaneous form of art than adding something already existing on some layout.

So, this particular vision has gone from the below to the very top of this post. The final diorama captures the images I wanted to capture. It is not the reproduction of any real scene but the two structures are meant to represent symbols.

2 thoughts on “Symbolic Dioramas

  1. Love what’s happening here! As in the best miniatures, sucks you into the filmic moment.

  2. Hi John,
    I’m continuously interested in this symbolic diorama genre you created.
    It flies in the face of everything I grew up reading about and thinking about what a diorama was all about.
    Since our knowledge of the diorama mostly comes from the real world ‘Natural History Museum’ environment, and then in the scale model hobby environment, and then by a few masters, a very small shadow box diorama genre, but all these are just slight variations of the linear narrative style of 2/D dioramas (such as when using ‘flat’ model figures), and 3/D dioramas (when using ‘in the round’ model figures).
    I like where this exploration is going.
    There is more of a connection with current theater design in the sense of using symbolism and metaphors rather than a historical narrative style.
    Unfortunately or fortunately, depending on your level of curiosity, this new genre divorces you from the entire industry of scale model building, yet at the same time, seems like a natural extension and progression of the scale diorama, but there is a huge tenancy to b uncomfortable with anything new or outside the box in this industry.
    I find it fascinating, because I always have been outside the box.

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