Toward the end of my teaching career, I was invited to the Museum of Natural History for a professional development where the man leading the lecture was one of the curators of the dioramas there. I usually spent these PDs catching up on my sleep or daydreaming about what I’m going to do when I win the lotto jackpot, but that day, I sat, rapt and enchanted, and wished that I hadn’t turned down the opportunity to be an assistant to my ex-boyfriend’s friend, Taxidermy George, who, was one of the most illustrious taxidermist in the country back then and at present.
Taxidermy George, at the time, was running his business in his parents’ basement and was nice enough to have me over to show me his studio. I wanted nothing more than to quit my job right there and then and become a taxidermist, an impulse that practicality said a resounding no to. It turned out to be a mistake, as I found out, to even qualify as an assistant to work on the dioramas at the museum, I would need a rudimentary understanding of taxidermy.
Well, I probably wouldn’t have been too good at it since I’m not too crazy with the idea of working with dead things. But boy, would I love to do the backgrounds for the displays! As it was, the only time I got to really spread my wings was putting up the stage sets for the annual New Year’s performances at the school I was teaching and I wanted to do more of it. At 30+ years old, I felt it might be too much of a gamble to go into the set design/taxidermy business, so I kept it tamped down and wished that one day I would have the time and space to work on it, even at a miniature scale.
As it turns out, there was never time nor budget for me to indulge in this whim of mine, until one day I was looking for something in my loose dolls drawer and saw that I had an array of tiny “last dolls” that had been torn from its original set due to customization. I could turn these dolls into pieces for a diorama!
It took nearly two years for me to finish it, largely due to the lack of time. When the dolls were painted, I experimented with different ideas on the display itself and finally found the perfect frame. I learned how to do wood staining with materials I had on hand (isn’t YouTube tutorials wonderful?) and got to paint on flat canvases for the first time in years. It was a lot of fun putting the pieces together, and I wish I can remember most of the process as a majority of these dioramas were painted at around 3AM when I am in zombie-mode.
This is the first in the (hopefully) many series of a miniaturized large scale project. I admit it was a bit too ambitious for someone who didn’t have a lot of time and didn’t really know what she was doing. I chose to showcase some of the characters from Wes Anderson’s movies because I’d painted so many sets in the last 10 years that I didn’t have to do too much research. Just to let you know how long this project had taken me to complete: When I first drew out the rough sketches, “Isle of Dogs” didn’t even exist yet!
Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou
The Fantastic Mr. Fox
Grand Budapest Hotel
Isle of Dogs