Enter the future-past through artist Katrin Davis's diorama world of miniatures
You may not know artist Katrin Davis by name, but you've definitely seen her work around Denver. The artist's collages have been used on posters and fliers for shows for years, pieces that incorporate vintage photographs with vibrant, retro-feeling colors like turquoise and coral. Late last year, Davis moved into the three-dimensional realm of dioramas, incorporating her throwback aesthetic into miniature worlds created through assembling model train pieces together with beads and other objects. As part of show opening tonight at the new artist-run space DATELINE, Davis will be showing Hypotheticals, forty of her dioramas, alongside the work of other local and national artists.
In advance of the opening, Westword spoke with about Davis about her change in medium and how she sources the pieces for work she says is inspired by "the past's concepts of the future."
Westword: Your work prior to this series was mainly two-dimensional collages. What was the catalyst for a shift to these three-dimensional pieces?
Katrin Davis: It's definitely an evolution of the same ideas that I was using in collage -- I am combining colors and shapes in a pleasing way and I wanted to take it a little bit further. I consider this 3D collage in some way. I went to an estate sale that inspired me to start using miniatures in particular. This woman would just glue little skiers inside of a seashell or pigs onto a math book or something. I loved the way she used these little objects and made their importance amplified because she would combine them with colors and shapes.
I've been collecting little objects since I was little with no use for them, so it seemed like a good way to part with some of these objects and give them another life, too. (Besides my own collection) I get them from eBay, Etsy, all sorts of little hobby shops in town and thrift stores. Really any place I can find something odd or special. A lot of what I buy from eBay is beads and geometric shapes. The people I use are train model figures.
Even though your collage work and diorama work are different mediums, I like that you use color schemes and themes that are retro without being corny. I'm really fascinated with the idea of the past's concepts of the future -- I think I try to bring that through by using antiquated colors and atomic shapes but in a more contemporary way. The one thing that's kind of driving this whole project -- the title ("Hypotheticals") is in reference to these sculptures as my own approximations of what a dream or some kind of utopia might look like, a walk on the moon, the set of a movie I'd want to see. I try for them all to embody a feeling -- somewhere between independence and isolation, exploration and escape, but in a way that's not too heavy, and hopefully sometimes funny.
You're showing forty of these dioramas together for tonight's opening show at Dateline. Is this one series or a collection of several?
This is really an ongoing series; I feel like each one is a prototype for the next. I myself am curious as to what the main objective of these things is -- I don't really know. (Laughs.) I was selling them on Etsy for a while, but shipping them was hard because they are so fragile. I want to move into some bigger installation pieces and kind of blow them out so that you feel like you're the miniature. That's my dream, anyway.
Because they are so fragile, what do you use to bond them?
I mostly use hot glue on the dioramas. On a lot of my pieces the hot glue will be showing, but that doesn't really bother me. It's kind of like the prototype idea I was talking about, where I just want to get them made. It is the best material I can use to get them made quickly, even though they may take all day. I've been experimenting with super glue but hot glue is really what works best.
How did you become involved with this opening at Dateline and what will you be showing?
I met Adam Milner and Jeromie Dorrance when I was in school and I've just been in touch through Instagram and Facebook -- we've never really done anything together before. Adam asked me if I wanted to be in the show and that's how it all came together. I've been making these dioramas since about Thanksgiving of last year, sort of out of compulsion. I ended up having about forty of them at my house and Adam saw them and wanted to have a big show with all of them.
Katrin Davis's dioramas will be on display starting at at 7 p.m. tonight at DATELINE. The show -- featuring work from Davis, Ann Hamilton, Jeanne Liotta, Nate Hess and Gato Karatoyote -- runs through April 20. See more of Davis's work at her website; find out more about DATELINE's opening and hours through the gallery's Facebook page.
Get the ICYMI: Today's Top Stories Newsletter Our daily newsletter delivers quick clicks to keep you in the know
Catch up on the day's news and stay informed with our daily digest of the most popular news, music, food and arts stories in Denver, delivered to your inbox Monday through Friday.