Big things can happen in small packages, and that certainly goes for works of art too. A local model maker has a direct connection to the Thorne Rooms – those ever-popular model rooms on display at the Art Institute. We explored impressive little worlds exposed in a new setting.
Marc Vitali: These are cases filled with small three-dimensional delicacies.
From the captain’s cabin of a 17th century pirate ship to a medieval library in Normandy, France, Kupjack’s miniature rooms inspire the imagination.
You can really suspend your disbelief. That’s kind of what it’s all about, and the viewer creates the scene. They add history. Whatever goes through your mind when you look at it is individual to each person and whatever they take away from it. They create this experience themselves.
We are simply creating a scene to explore.
Vitali: Also on display – a reconstruction of the siege tent of Alexander the Great from 300 BC.
The works were made by Jay Kupjack and his late brother Hank. Jay and Hank are the sons of Eugene Kupjack, who in the 1930s created the Thorne Rooms at the Art Institute of Chicago. These painstaking miniatures have been on permanent display at the museum since 1954.
Creating miniature bedrooms can take over a year, but when it’s a family business, it becomes second nature.
kupjack: I mean, it looks like a lot of work but none of the drawers open to the small cabinets. There is no padding in the small chairs. It is much easier to make a small piece of furniture than a large one. There are no 2x4s in the walls, there is no drywall. There is electricity but there are no sockets in the walls, there is no plumbing.
Vitali: For the first time, some of the miniature rooms made by Hank and Jay Kupjack are exhibited in a gallery.
Victor Armendariz, Gallery: We have an exhibition called “Wunderkammer”, which is a cabinet of curiosities. It is a word that appeared around 1600.
A cabinet of curiosities can be an entire room, or it can be a small box that you put something in, or it can be just an object itself. The idea is to bring something weird and otherworldly in and then bring it to life among the rest of the stuff in your home.
They are this combination of art and science and nature and mysticism and they were actually the forerunners of museums.
Vitali: The exhibition also includes a reconstruction of the studio of an esteemed local artist who has worked in Pilsen for more than half a century.
Marcos RayaArtist: When Victor [Armendariz] came to my studio the first time he was attracted to my stuff and he decided to recreate a wall I had. I’m really excited to be a part of this show because it makes so much sense to put it all together, because it’s all objects.
Armendariz: The real honor of this show is to present the miniature halls of Kupjack.
Vitali: When you’ve done little wonders all your life, it doesn’t matter.
kupjack: The work itself, either you can do it or you can’t. It’s hard to teach someone a good sense of design, proportion or dexterity. Either you can do things or you can’t.
Neither of us, Hank or I, really intended to be miniaturists. He was going to become an architect. I was going to become an engineer. And then all of a sudden we were there, and now I’m too old to do anything else.
There are tens of thousands of painters, but not many miniature artists.
As mentioned, Kupjack Miniature Rooms can take over a year to manufacture. And if you want one, start saving your money because you’ll be paying in the six figures.