The World in Miniature

The set designs of Ming Cho Lee are getting artistic treatment at the Yale University Architecture Gallery.  Each 3D model becomes a world of its own, and I readily saw how the set design can effect the temper of the play, at least as powerfully as any director.  The set immediately sets our mood in the audience, before a word is spoken.




I remember Lee’s set for “K2” at the Kreeger in DC.  Chilling in every conceivable way.  Palpable even in the miniature model.




Much Ado about Nothing


Lee has probably worked every Shakespeare play, and a large number are represented in the show.  Lingering in front of his “Much Ado About Nothing,” a play I know fairly well, I could hear Benedict and Beatrice carping at each other, in their silly prelude to love.  All set to the jazz beat of Lee’s set.


Also interesting is how the sets act as minimalist art objects, in miniature, and I imagine even more powerfully on stage.  What a production of “Elektra” this must have been.


I haven’t seen Martha Graham’s dance called “Witch of Endor,” but maybe you, too, can imagine her organic, twirling Witch of Endormovements performed under and around this set.

If the set were a painting, it would hold forth with minimalist power rivaling Donald Judd and Robert Morris.

But Lee says he also was interested in realist work.  As an adult, more than as a child, I’m fascinated by doll houses with hyper-realist furnishings.  I think of Carrie Stettheimer’s dollhouse, created over 25 years, at the Museum of the City of New York.

Perhaps this is why Lee’s “A Moon for the Misbegotten” was probably one of my favorites in the exhibition.  It’s a ragged, sagging, tattered, sad dollhouse, already alive, just waiting for its actors to add some words.

A Moon for the Misbegotten


Next, I’m off to the Bruce Museum, for the miniatures of artist studios.  Since learning about Jimmy Sanders and his perspective boxes at the New Britain Museum of American Art, I’m a fan.  He has one of the miniatures in that show.



Come join me to see the world he creates!


One thought on “The World in Miniature

  1. These are beautiful and well documented. It is easy to get entranced into a story by the mood of a set (or turned away from participation by a bad setting.) i had a couse in theater design in college which has remained in my heart ever since.

    You live in a remarkable environment, Rena, so close to so many beaytiful gems from the world of art and design.

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