Working with common themes such as time, isolation, and transition, I am interested in the fragility of relationships and people’s awkwardness in trying to coexist and relate to one another. To that end I create miniature 3D models to serve as evolving still lifes from which I paint detailed narrative paintings. Using cardboard, foam, wood, paint, glue, and model railroad miniatures, I construct various fictional, scale models. Recent models have included a town, neighborhood, lake, theater, doctor’s office, church, and numerous domestic interiors. The models become a stage on which I develop narratives. They offer me complete control over lighting, composition, and vantage point to achieve a certain dramatic effect.
For my most recent series of paintings I built a diorama of a fictional rural landscape and gradually developed it into farmland and ultimately, a town. Beginning with an 8-foot square of styrofoam, I carved mountains, valleys, rivers and ponds, and propagated a verdant fake landscape with hundreds of wire and foam trees. I fabricated over 450 wooden buildings in 1/500 scale (similar to the size of a Monopoly hotel): houses, garages, commercial buildings, storefronts, and schools and painted each by hand. The tiny structures gradually populated my artificial town. I then mapped the complete village and stages of development over time, documenting the changes in my model through a series of paintings and monotypes.
I allowed the textures of transparent or partially mixed paint to mimic the natural wildness of the landscape. Bit by bit more order became imposed as property lines emerged and tidy rows of planted farmland developed. My handling of the paint became more precise as a pond became a grocery store and parking lot; a farmhouse became a school complex; an old house sitting at an odd angle stubbornly remained as the town built up around it.
While working with tiny pieces that often slip frustratingly from my fingers, I am reminded of the delicacy and vulnerability of the world I am creating, and this summons empathy for my subject. The clumsy inadequacies of miniatures help me to convey a sense of artifice and distance. I try to paint the scenes in a way that feels like a believable world, but an alternate, fabricated world.
My earlier paintings are more explicitly narrative. Similar to a memory, they are glimpses of a fictional scene that might move the viewer to consider the moment before or after the one presented in the painting. I am interested in storytelling over time through repeated depictions of the same house or car or person, seasonal changes, and shifting vantage points. My aim is for the collective images to invite the viewer to consider shifting relationships to our surroundings over the course of time, and to offer a reminder of the persistence of change and the impermanence of everything.
All content ©2018 Amy Bennett.