The City, artist Lori Nix’s collection of fantastical dioramas, is a marvelous creation: part dystopian novel made real, part oversized doll house, part Macy’s Christmas display as designed by a deranged window dresser. Nix grew up in Norton, Kansas and was accustomed to extreme acts of mother nature: tornados, floods, hailstorms, and insect infestations. At 6, she was already devouring campy science fiction films like Planet of the Apes, Earthquake, and Airport 77. As a grown-up, she is quite attuned to how real life often emulates the movies.
"I loved Towering Inferno, and it just happened the other day, in Dubai," she says, referring to the 34-story tower that went up in flames on November 18th. The diorama, Control Room, which was inspired by Chernobyl, brings to mind Hurricane Sandy and New York’s flooded subways. While the collection started a few years ago, Nix has added new scenes along the way (the subway and anatomy classroom dioramas above were completed last month).
"Our life as we know it is spinning wildly out of control and we may not be able to finance our way back to a healthy planet," says Nix. This is The City’s premise, though Nix doesn’t specify exactly how human beings have screwed up the planet—and, ultimately, become extinct. "It could be climate change, nuclear annihilation, a virus. I leave it up to the reader to decide. But if you were the last person left alive, these are the scenes you might find."
While decidedly dark, The City isn’t solely depressing. Nix has infused many of the scenes with humor, which is her way of dealing with adversity. Blackbirds poop all over a theater stage. Goggle-eyed frogs stare at the viewer. A tree has burst through a library ceiling to majestic result.
See some of Nix’s scenes, with commentary from the artist, in the slide show above.