Tiny Worlds: Wildlife Dioramas by Allison May Kiphuth
Hunting and gathering has always been a part of human nature, but for artist Allison May Kiphuth, the act of collecting is the crux on which her career lies.
Originating from Maine and living along the wild and windy New Hampshire coast, Kiphuth constantly finds herself inspired by the blustery surroundings, including the dense forests and rough oceans that characterize the area.
Ever since she was little, she had a fascination with small collectibles and always wanted to be a diorama artist, where she created tiny worlds inside boxes. Fortunately for Kiphuth, her dream cam true, and today she is well-known for her boxed artwork that depicts different natural scenes from around her home base.
The actual act of packaging up the real world in miniature form is an interesting one. It’s as if Kiphuth wants to memorialize these scenes in a way that reflects the larger power of our planet – in a way she’s saying, just look at how small these snippets of the world really are.
But Kiphuth’s main inspiration is the world around her, not the fact that she can squeeze never-ending natural beauty into tiny boxes. And the boxes she uses are just that – tiny. Some barely even measure a few inches wide, while others hang downwards in lengthy displays of tall trees and soaring birds.
It is clear to see that nature plays a huge part in Kiphuth’s work. Each box is elegantly put together to feature a singular scene depicting wildlife of some kind.
In one piece, the body of a whale is filled with trees and a starlit, nighttime scene, while another shows rabbits gazing up at a bald, winter forest. In yet more, Kiphuth showcases the mesmerizing beauty of birds, where one box is dedicated to a single movement of flight, and displays the undulating scenery that surrounds her home in layered landscapes.
It is quite amazing how similar yet different Kiphuth’s pieces look. They act as one, in that they are all segmented inside little boxed worlds, but each scene is as unique as the inspiration it was drawn from. There are nighttime scenes of badgers below glowing moons, dark, underwater worlds where seals frolic together, and fairytale-style landscapes, featuring red spotty mushrooms and tiny field mice.
To construct each diorama, Kiphuth collects objects while she’s out and about. Her Instagram feed is full of the outdoors, including unusual feathers she’s found on walks, and leaves she’s picked up.
To bring each scene to life, she assembles the boxes using layered ink and watercolor illustrations that depict birds, animals, trees, and fields. These are set in place using pins and string, giving a three-dimensional glimpse into the tiny worlds she creates.
When put together, the pieces form an entire overview of the natural world that oozes the appeal of the cabinets of curiosity of the past – ramshackle boxes sit side by side in different shapes and sizes. Each one offers its own meaning and message, whether it is the playful nature of sea creatures, or the harshness of a rural winter.
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