Artist Interview: Abigail Goldman

Spoke Art
Mar 9, 2017 7:47PM

This past weekend, SPOKE NYC debuted a new solo exhibition with Washington based miniature sculpture artist Abigail Goldman. 

We recently sat down with the artist to discuss the exhibition "Wishful Thinking" and her new series of die-o-ramas. On view at the NYC gallery March 4 - 26, 2017. Take a look at our interview below! 

"The Infected"

"The Infected" detail

Your work obviously incites a multitude of reactions from the viewer. Are there any memorable or interesting moments of feedback?

Because my work is so small, people are forced to lean in close or crane their necks to see what’s happening within. I always enjoy seeing people hunched over a dieorama suddenly reel backwards when they realize there’s a tiny murder under the glass – it’s a very physical reaction, craning forward and then jutting upright and then leaning in for a closer look.  

I think because dieoramas are unapologetically violent and gory, people feel comfortable sharing their dark and disturbing thoughts with me. My most memorable example: A school teacher who requested a yellow school bus full of children crashed into a ravine.    

"Perfect Tan"

You worked as a forensic reporter for the Las Vegas Sun. Did you have any interest or involvement in the art world before you started making these dieoramas? Had you made visual art before?

I’ve always had a few quiet art projects going on in my off hours. Before I started making dieoramas, my favorite medium was needlework, though also with sort of a dark subject matter: people vomiting in flower beds, or repeating patterns that would secretly be hunters holding shotguns. 

Thematically, I’ve always been interested mixing quaint traditional crafts with gross or disturbing imagery. 

"Hey You"

"Hey You" detail

You’ve stated in the past that all your scenes are fictional. Have you had any real life events that inspired a scene? Like someone cut you off in traffic and you day dreamed a scenario that you used for a dieorama? Where does the inspiration for a particular scene come from?

I do try to keep my work fictional, though whether I can really maintain a barrier between the crimes I’ve reported on or investigated in my work, and the ideas that unfold as I start a dieorama is questionable. I’m sure there’s a hint of truth in most of my scenes, or a shadow of something I’ve seen before. 

Inspiration is harder to pin down – I suppose grinding away in the back of my mind there’s a bank of black thoughts. I see a shovel and I think of digging a grave. I see an axe and I imagine decapitation. It’s a tendency I probably shouldn’t examine too closely.

"Waste Management" detail

When you’re crafting a scene, do you find that you ever subconsciously take sides with the murderers or victims? What kind of emotional ties do you feel to your miniature subjects?

I’m not sure I take sides in my scenes, though I always have the viewer in the forefront of my mind as I work. I try to craft a open-ended narrative in each scene, so the viewer is faced with questions only they can answer: What’s the backstory? Who’s really to blame? Do I see myself in there somewhere?  

How has your process evolved since you made your first dieorama? What do you find you spend the most time on?

I spend the most time coming up with new ideas, or figuring out how to model new ideas. As time has gone on and my skills have sharpened, I’ve gotten more detailed in my work. And because my work is small, it’s very time consuming to build – I spend a lot of time painting and building little houses, or weathering cars to look old, or wiring the interior of a building for miniature lighting. 

"Mommy Knows Best" (photo by Lanee Bird)

"Mommy Knows Best" detail  (photo by Lanee Bird)

You stated that you sometimes source dirt from Las Vegas because you like its sun-baked quality. Your other materials come from model train sets. Do any of your other materials have interesting sources?

I think what’s most interesting about most of the materials is actually how mundane they are – it’s tricky to find details that can replicate real life in such a small scale, so often I’ll use a single bead to represent a trash can, or a few tufts of fake fur to replicate a house plant. 

What do you listen to or think about while you work?

One of my favorite things about working on dieoramas is the absence of thought – I get into a quiet mode where I am wholly focused on the process. Once I get going, I can lose track of time. If I’m stuck or getting frustrated with a project, I will turn on NPR and try to tidy up my workspace, since I make a shocking mess while I work. 

"Cover Up"

What is it about safe, family-oriented suburbs that feel like the perfect backdrop for grizzly murders?

I think it’s the inherent contrast – playing the quaint suburbs against a morose scene. I also think the suburbs are plenty dark beneath their bland surfaces. You never know what’s happening behind someone’s front door. 

Any homicidal narratives you haven't tried? Anything too hard to flesh out via miniature sculpture?

So far, I’ve only avoided depicting real crime scenes. Otherwise, nothing (and no one) is off limits. 


"Assets" detail

Interview by Caroline Caldwell

Photos by Shaun Roberts (unless noted otherwise)

Spoke Art