Dan Ohlmann used to make cabinets. Now he makes worlds. Very tiny worlds, to be exact. For the last quarter century, this French artist and proprietor of the Musée Miniature Et Cinéma in Lyons has been creating highly detailed miniature scenes, taking real life locations and painstakingly shrinking them down to 1/24th of their original size. Museums, schools, theaters, and other locales have been replicated in the artist’s mind bogglingly intricate dioramas. It’s almost eerie, as if these places have been zapped with a shrink ray wielded by some science-fiction villain, while he remains full-sized and seemingly omnipotent. Ohlmann’s remarkable work is the subject of “Making Mini Worlds In Minute Detail,” a recent installment of the Great Big Story documentary webseries.
“When one makes miniatures,” Ohlmann declares in subtitled French, “attention to detail is fundamental.” He doesn’t skimp on those, that’s for sure. The artist’s work shows a level of hyper-obsessive perfection that might be troubling if both the man and his miniatures weren’t so instantly charming. He doesn’t work quickly, though. His scenes take about a year on average to complete. During that long gestation time, Ohlmann makes sure to capture every last bit of cutlery, every last picture hanging on the wall, and even every last bit of schmutz in the corner. “I make sure no element is missing,” he says. Believe him. Wee is his world.
There can be a level of dutiful joylessness that creeps into long-term projects like this, along with a degree of self-seriousness. Happily, those are not in evidence in Ohlmann’s story. The artist talks to the Great Big Story crew about his philosophy toward his work:
People think it’s something, difficult, complicated, that you have to concentrate really hard, that you have to be patient. But for me, it’s always been an enormous joy. My work as a miniaturist makes me see the world a bit differently from other people. A miniaturized scene represents, all at once, an enormous bit of society.
Perhaps Ohlmann is so sanguine because of the one element his miniatures lack: people. There are little beds and little chairs and little tables and even little dinosaur skeletons, but there are no little people to mess it all up. He’s created an ideal alternate universe with no pesky human population to ruin it. And gets to rule over all of it like a god. No wonder he’s so chipper.
[via Laughing Squid]