TINY THINGS IN A BIG WORLD
Hi, my name is Shazalynn Cavin-Winfrey
(All in Unison: “Hi Shazalynn…”)
And I am obsessed with all small creations.
Yes, that would be me at an addicts meeting, if there were one, with my fellow all-things-small addicts. For as long as I can remember, I have had an utter and complete fascination with little objects. So when I heard that the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts (in Richmond, VA) had opened a new exhibit showcasing...wait for it...MICROMOSAICS, I knew I had to go. Clearly that saying about how the little things in life are the ones that truly make us happy, obviously rings true for me.
As a young girl, I dreamed of the tiny doll house at the Smithsonian where I could stand and stare behind the plexiglass at all the tiny rooms perfectly arranged and orderly. As an adult, I have collected too many miniature items to inventory here, but it has caused me to reflect on why I am so intrigued by tiny things. Several articles attribute this fixation as a projection of a home or space that is unattainable in reality but which we can have in miniature form. Maybe being tiny means not having to live in the big world, I am not sure.
Micromosaics, in particular, have always held my imagination. The term “micromosaics” became widely used in the 1970s and are essentially intricate pictures of architecture, animals, historical landmarks, religious icons, portraitures, et cetera on glass enamel called tesserae. Fun fact - they served as souvenirs for young European men, and sometimes wealthy women, who were participating in the Grand Tour of Europe in the 18th and 19th centuries. But for me, growing up, micromosaics seemed to hold a special place in my heart due to my grandmother. She had a series of miniature micromosaic frames she collected through the years and I always marveled at the tiny tiles which lay in perfect repeating pattern. Here are a few examples I’ve found to what I’m referring:
A well known jeweler, Elizabeth Locke, has been collecting ancient micromosaics throughout her life and decided to loan 92 of them to the VMFA to display as part of the Elizabeth Locke Collection of Micromosaics. She must’ve known I lived close by… In the exhibit, you get to see micromosaics set as jewelry pieces or simply as decorative pieces. Her collection is jaw dropping and I could not help but imagine how much fun she had hunting for all of these pieces on her travels.
So, it’s safe to say I was entirely blissed out when I got to see this collection. But it got me thinking, am I the only one who is in love with small things? In my quick research, I found an article from Vice where miniature artist (yes, who knew there was such a thing as an artist who works with miniature everything?) Thomas Doyle perfectly states, "in a world that grows ever faster and chaotic, in a world in which we are bombarded with imagery, artworks in small scales allow us a place of retreat, where time has stopped.”
Micromosaics are timeless pieces that serve as reminders of not only our pasts, but how far we’ve come on our journeys as a human race. Here are some of my favorites from the exhibit. If you wish to learn more about this VMFA exhibit, check out this link here.