Jeremy Mora work-in-progress
Past visitors to Jeremy Mora’s small-sculptures exhibitions have been known to kneel and even lie down on the floor to take in a detail at the base of a sculpture — the details of his pieces are so intricate, textured, and lush, that the reward for this inquisitiveness outweighs the embarrassment of laying prostrate in a gallery.
And Mora himself is drawn to small scale sculptures because of the details: “There is something very pleasing about getting lost in a miniature diorama: the moment you come back out of it and realize the vastly different and contrasting scales of your perception of space when you are all ‘zoomed in’ versus the ‘real world.’”
In the real world, Jeremy Mora, in addition to being a full time artist, co-owns and operates POVevolving Gallery on Chungking Road in Los Angeles. The space houses a Gallery, a printing studio, and three artist studios. Mora is also in the midst of developing a suite of web-based tools to enable creative folks to be more productive, better organized, and hence more successful. He took time out of his litany of daily tasks to chat about how he accidentally fell into making dioramas, and his increasing optimism for the future of what he calls a “broken world.”
I read that you fell into making dioramas by accident. How did that happen?
At the time I was making paintings. I was painting pictures of giant stacks of papers and it had a lot to do with accumulations and history. The way I was getting the reference material for the project was by tearing apart a whole book and making large stacks of paper in my studio and painting them. The paintings were really sculptural in their own right because the paints were so thick, but the by-product of my reference material were these book binding that looked like the stumps and on a whim, I dipped one of these little book bindings in plaster and pinned it on my studio wall horizontally and somehow it looked like layers or earth. It was a definitive moment for me for taking a new direction with my work
The thing about small-scale works is that so many things can be smashed into one little place and spark the curiosity of a viewer enough to make them zoom in to take in the details. Considering the way our eyes work, when you are that close to something, that “something” is all there is — it can be, for a moment or two, the only thing that exists.
There is something super pleasing about getting lost in a miniature place or picture or diorama: the moment you come back out of it and realize the vastly different and contrasting scales of your perception of space when you are all “zoomed in” versus the “real world.”
Like the book dipped into plaster that propelled you in this new direction, you use a lot of found objects in your small sculptures. What are some of the found component in your Small is Beautiful piece?
I did some work out in Las Vegas and there was this warehouse that housed a bunch of props and signs for events and this warehouse caught on fire. We went to look at it in the aftermath of the fire and there was this melted plastic that had Christmas lights in it and you wouldn’t recognize where it came from. It looked like some marred landscape. I took out a saw and I cut out a piece of it and took it with me and it became the base for this piece. The base under the base is actually found too. It’s a found Ikea table. But mostly, I’m using a lot of raw materials, there’s a lot of paint, dried paint cut up in shapes.
Pieces of the diorama
Many of your small sculptures leave a lot of unanswered questions: for example, Private Preserve (3 monks standing before a domed bush) begs the question, what are the monks contemplating what’s so significant about the bush? What questions does your Small is Beautiful piece ask?
I don’t want to build an illustrative sculpture that tells a story from A to B, I feel like it takes the fun out of viewing the art, so I try to leave an empty space or a mark that doesn’t make sense or a partially broken structure — things that don’t tell the full story. I definitely put a few of those in this piece as well for sure. Come see it and interpret for yourself.
In reflecting on my last show in LA, I felt like I didn’t really say anything except for “everything sucks” and I felt it was really cynical. And I feel strongly that an artist has the potential to be able to say something important — to help people see something in a different way. To say “Hey everything is really fucked up” — anyone can observe that. I’m still trying to figure out the balance between the observation of the world – which is kind of broken in general – and a message that there’s hope.
The underlying approach (and consistent thread throughout the recent work) has been to say, “Yeah, things in this world are kind of f*#%ed up… but really, if you look at it differently, things are actually pretty damn good.”
It’s all in the details and where you choose to look.
Theme has teamed up with Scion to curate an exhibition of miniature dioramas by artists Jeremy Mora, Lori Nix, Tracey Snelling, Dan Funderburgh and Ji Lee. Asked to interpret the theme “Small is Beautiful” the five artists constructed mini cities, colored and inspired by their own experiences of urban life, touching on topics of decay, regeneration, voyeurism, multiculturalism, chaos and order.