Micah Adams is a sculptor, jeweller and collector of curiosities. Originally from Nova Scotia, he studied fine arts in Montreal and Halifax, and spent several years in Toronto as a resident artist at the Harbourfront Centre.
Your miniature sculptures often take familiar things out of their usual context and present them as objects of art. You have works that consist of beavers cut out of Canadian nickels and maple leaves out of the pennies, flowers constructed out of matches and jewellery put together from earring backs. Is revealing the extraordinary potential of ordinary things an important aspect of making art to you? Do you find that your work inspires those who see it to look at objects they usually take for granted in a new light?
I like when I see an object or a material and realize something about it I hadn’t noticed before, much of my work is about that moment. All art has the capacity to change perspectives on things, both big things and small things. If others after viewing some of my work, look at objects they usually take for granted more closely, I would think the artwork was successful at communicating my observations.
I like to use familiar or everyday items for a few reasons – sometimes it’s an item’s material qualities that I like or want to use in an unconventional way. I like finding new uses for things. For example I discovered that masking tape is really good for forming 3-d shapes by folding small pieces over one another to create a form. This could resemble the way potters handcoil vessels.
Often I see or use something in my day-to-day life and realize that it looks like something else. I want to take advantage of these visual similes in an artwork. The consequence of using familiar objects is that they are relatable for people and I like art that is accessible.
When I’m conceiving an idea for a project, it’s based around what I find or have access to. I don’t just want to invent something new when there’s so many material objects out there where the ideal thing could already exist. It’s just waiting to be mixed and matched with other things. My job is to find or wait for the right idea to come up and match with the perfect found object. For example, with some of my cast miniature monuments, the bottle caps worked perfectly as monument bases. This was one of the starting points for that work.
The size of your works also seems to encourage looking at familiar things in a different way – as with your miniature monuments series, or the Hands & Teeth & Antlers sculptures, and My Own Personal Olympic Stadium. What first attracted you to working on such a small scale? Were the ideas you wanted to communicate through your art the decisive factor behind you choosing to make miniatures, or did the love of working on a small scale come first?
This question I’m not sure of. It happened naturally as far as I’m concerned. People call it miniature or little but to me that’s just what happens, and it turns out that is unconventionally small. The answer is probably both at the same time. When I grew up I played a lot with Lego and later plastic models. Lots of people used Lego when they were younger and grew out of it. I think I’m drawn to small things and making small art but also some of the ideas or observations I wanted to communicate were little in scale.
For example the Olympic stadium piece was based on an observation I made, how hair when pulled makes the skin around it look like a little tent. Then I thought of the connection to the stadium and how it looked the same.
With the teeth and hands, I thought there was a visual connection with roots in general and hands as tools for gripping things. Those are small things so the ideas dictated the scale of the work. That said, I could make the hands and teeth idea at hand size. On the other hand, if the stadium could be done at the life size, the idea is ridiculous. So sometimes it seems the work has to be small in order to work.
I saw your work at the TOAE (Toronto Outdoor Art Exhibition) last summer, where you had a sort of cabinet of curiosities set-up filled with your miniature sculptures. There were small drawers and shadow box-like displays for this profusion of tiny artworks, and together the effect was almost fractal – the closer you looked the finer and finer details were there to be found and marvel at. This combined effect is like a separate artwork in itself, and it seems to reveal something different than the sculptures themselves do. What do you think is gained and what is lost when one of your sculptures is viewed on its own versus when they are seen all together like this?
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