Today I decided to have a go at making a diorama, as it is one way of presenting the miniature, overlooked specimens which would allow them to be viewed from a different perspective. I have a collection of lichens which I have collected from the floor of Birnam Wood over the last few months, some of them are really quite spectacular, and are not unlike something one might see under the sea in a coral reef. I have a few that have been drying out, as well as some oakmoss and usnea lichens which have been pressed, so I gathered them together and began to plan how I might display them underneath a large glass cloche.
I used a brick of oasis and pieced it together to form a circle of the desired size. I began by covering the surface and sides with pressed usnea, which is a pale green hairy lichen, as this gives good coverage and seems like an appropriate base on which to add further specimens.
I glued the usnea down with florists glue, and also used a few pins to keep it in place. When it was all covered, I inserted the larger pieces of lichen, and also included a twig which I had picked which was covered in crotal (yellow lichen).
To finish it off neatly, I glued the pressed oak moss right around the sides of the circle, allowing it to stand proud around the edge to add a further layer of interest for the viewer.
The finished diorama reminded me a bit of a decorated cake, although it would be certainly fatal if consumed! Below is an aerial view of the miniature landscape…
I placed it inside the cloche to see how it would look on display. I was quite happy with the result, and it reminded me of some of the exhibits of coral that I had seen in books about wunderkammern that I had been reading.
I took a lot of photos from different angles both with and without the glass, and was surprised at the “alien” landscape which emerged through the lens. The camera really magnifies the texture and form of the lichens which I hadn’t realised were so amazing. The two photos below are taken through the glass cloche, giving a distorted and surreal effect in some areas.
The blurred foreground against the crisp texture of the yellow Croat lichen gives a ghostly, otherworldly effect.
Without the glass, I feel like I am looking into a strange and sinister yet intriguing landscape – almost certainly a sublime landscape where trees and plants have evolved into threatening monsters, a bit like the photographs of Paul Nash.
Making this piece has allowed me not only to display an unusual collection of lichens, but also to take a digital walk through a miniature landscape, where the weird and wonderful details that lie under our feet become menacing and monstrous when we enlarge them. By magnifying the details, we notice the strange suckers, cups, wrinkles and veins on these specimens which would feel at home in the movie Avatar. The lens is a great tool to illustrate the sublime aspects of the world around us.