Lori Nix is a ‘non-traditional’ photographer who shoots incredibly detailed dioramas, that she and her partner make. Her work is painstaking and slow, and the heavily-weathered, deteriorated scenes aren’t manipulated digitally, further adding to their awesomeness.
Are there any art periods or styles that have influenced you? And how would you describe your own style?
I am greatly influenced by landscape painting, particularly the Hudson River School of Painting which included the artists Thomas Cole, Asher Brown Durand, Frederich Edwin Church, Martin Johnson Heade, and the Romantic painter Casper David Friedrich. Each of these painters possessed characteristics of romanticism and the Sublime and it’s ability to create a state of mind and express intense emotions either through beauty or horror. Eighteenth century philosophers such as Burke and Kant wrote of phenomena that could excite sublime feelings when considering natural settings, dangerous situations, the unknown, and anything else that can threaten us or our belief that we live in a friendly and predictable universe that is under our control. The Sublime as a school of thought came to full force in the eighteenth century and was illustrated by these painters’ grandiose landscapes. When one views these beautiful depictions of landscape, one immediately sees God in all his glory and is filled with awe and/or terror by His majesty. In contemporary art, the Sublime manifests itself in many different ways and in many different forms, but it is trying to achieve the same effect, the evocation of profound emotion. The painters Barnett Newman and Mark Rothko employed styles of Abstract Expressionism to move the viewer. The photographer Andreas Gursky takes pictures of enormous spaces that continue on beyond the perceivable horizon, confronting the viewers with feelings of unease and smallness. In my own work, I create photographs that depict our failing future and the demise of humanity, though I temper it with subtle humor.
I am interested in depicting danger and disaster, but I temper this with a touch of humor. My childhood was spent in a rural part of the United States that is known more for it’s natural disasters than anything else. I was born in a small town in western Kansas, and each passing season brought it’s own drama, from winter snow storms, spring floods and tornados to summer insect infestations and drought. Whereas most adults viewed these seasonal disruptions with angst, for a child it was considered euphoric. Downed trees, mud, even grass fires brought excitement to daily, mundane life. As a photographer, I have recreated some of these experiences in the series “Accidentally Kansas”.
In my newest body of work “The City” I have imagined a city of our future, where something either natural or as the result of mankind, has emptied the city of it’s human inhabitants. Art museums, Broadway theaters, laundromats and bars no longer function. The walls are deteriorating, the ceilings are falling in, the structures barely stand, yet Mother Nature is slowly taking them over. These spaces are filled with flora, fauna and insects, reclaiming what was theirs before man’s encroachment. I am afraid of what the future holds if we do not change our ways regarding the climate, but at the same time I am fascinated by what a changing world can bring.
I began my photography career in college, working for the college newspaper. I started out as the darkroom printer and eventually became the photo editor. As the editor, it became quickly obvious that I was not much of a photojournalist. I didn’t have the gift of being at the right place to capture breaking news. I’m also horrible at portraiture as I am unable to capture the essence of the sitter. In college I studied ceramics and photography. With ceramics, you’re always building the object from scratch. This translated well in my photo studies, where my desire was to construct the image rather than find an existing one. Since my earliest days I have always worked with fabrication, either through darkroom manipulations or even room sized installations. My strength lies in my ability to build and construct my world rather than seek out an existing world. Inspiration comes from reading the daily newspaper The New York Times, science fiction paperbacks and magazine articles. I get most of my ideas during my morning subway commute from Brooklyn to Manhattan to go to my day job. Something about the morning light, the rocking of the subway, seeing the cityscape pass by opens my mind up to inspiration. I then research my ideas on the internet, buy reference books, then start sketching out the diorama. Sometimes I let months pass before beginning work, other times I start immediately. It all depends on how fully defined the image is in my head. Sometimes I see the final image immediately, other times I do a lot of research before committing to building the model.
In my earliest work “Accidentally Kansas” I relied heavily upon manufactured models for railroad hobbyists. I used a shallow depth of field to give it a dreamy quality, like the fuzziness of memories. It also helped to hide my lack of good painting skills. Building landscapes was still new to me then.