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Inside the Box: Artists Find Inspiration in Dioramas

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Walton Ford, "Boca Grande" (2003); watercolor, gouache, pencil and ink on paper; 59 5/8 x 40 inches. (Courtesy of Paul Kasmin Gallery)


Liz Hickok makes miniature cityscapes out of an unlikely material: Jell-O; "Ferry Building" (2006). (Courtesy of Liz Hickok)


Jesse Farber attempts to set a mystical stage when he creates these miniature, cone-shaped dioramas. (Courtesy of Jesse Farber)


Kara Walker, "Slavery! Slavery! Presenting a GRAND and LIFELIKE Panoramic Journey into Picturesque Southern Slavery or "Life at 'Ol' Virginny's Hole' (sketches from Plantation Life)" See the Peculiar Institution as never before! All cut from black paper by the able hand of Kara Elizabeth Walker, an Emancipated Negress and leader in her Cause" (1997); cut paper and adhesive on wall 12 x 85 ft. (3.7 x 25.9 m) overall. Collections of Peter Norton and Eileen Harris Norton, Santa Monica, California. (Courtesy Walker Art Center)

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Whether they’re detailed habitats on display in a natural-history museum or the shoe-box creations of elementary-school students, dioramas have sparked the imaginations of many artists, as well as a debate: Just what constitutes a diorama?