Hoarding as art, in miniature

St. Louis-based artist Carrie Becker made internet fame last week when images of her hoarding-project in miniature “Barbie Trashes Her Dreamhouse” started being circulated on MetaFilter. The following image is one of Becker’s photographs of the home’s Laundry Room. In it, the furniture is Barbie furniture and the plastic items are made by Re-Ment, but the majority of the tiny items in this picture are handmade by Becker:

I’m fascinated by the artistic ability to create such life-like conditions in miniature. Becker explains the project in more detail on Flickr:

During the summer after completing graduate school I had some down time and decided to use my commercial photography skills to shoot my miniature collection as though it were “real”. Also during that time, I also frequently watched shows like “Hoarders” and “How Clean Is Your House?” With that in mind, this past summer I began creating the images that are presented here, though I reflect their inspiration as a mirror and not a judgement. For me, this series is about creating a small, but perfect world where the viewer cannot distinguish between what is reality and what is fiction.

In this weekend’s Riverfront Times, Becker showed reporter Aimee Levitt how she created the rooms for the project. The second page of “Local Artist Wonders, What If Barbie Were Secretly a Hoarder?” is a pictorial explanation of the miniature-creating process.

Personally, I’m less conflicted looking at these images — since I know they are staged and not real images of someone’s home — than I am about watching the television shows the artist previously mentioned. The shock and awe is because it’s tiny and not because of an actual person’s struggle with a hoarding condition. In this situation, clutter is art and nothing more, and I find it impressive.

Image by artist Carrie Becker.

22 Comments for “Hoarding as art, in miniature”

  1. posted by Jenna on

    This reminds me of installation at the LA County Museum of Art in which the artist had recreated a garage, completed with pickle jars full of old rusty nails, dirty rags, old boxes with water damage, etc. It’s funny how the kind of mess we think only happens randomly can be so methodically recreated.

  2. posted by Egirl on

    I don’t understand why you think this is fascinating.

  3. posted by Karen on

    Just seeing this picture, even though I know it’s in miniature and not real, makes me sad.

  4. posted by DawnF on

    OH. MY. GOSH. Barbie’s Dream House certainly isn’t very dreamy any more…

    I prefer art that provokes happiness, joy and positive reflection.

    I’m with Karen ~ this makes me sad.

  5. posted by Renee on

    Yes, it’s amazing and very cool that she can create something like this. But I agree with Dawn and Karen, it’s too close to the truth for some people.
    I like my art to be beautiful and joyous too.
    Sorry, Erin.

  6. posted by Gena on

    Art serves many purposes, from communication to enlightenment to beauty to provoking thought. Are these images “beautiful” in the conventional sense? Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. They’re definitely thought-provoking. I’m with Erin; I’d rather look at this than watch a show like “Hoarders.” This is a deliberate commentary where “Hoarders” feels like borderline exploitation to me. To each their own.

  7. posted by CM on

    The art is amazing. Seeing those images makes me feel claustrophobic and distressed. I don’t think I will ever watch a show about hoarding.

  8. posted by Marie on

    When I can see the miniature in its real life context, it looks fascinating, almost amusing. But when I see them without the art context, it produces too much sadness and anxiety for comfort. It reminds me of my aunt’s house, and I’m so sad that she creates that environment for herself. But I think yes, it is art, in the varied reactions it provokes. It forces us to look at the interpretations we bring to it.

  9. posted by Another Deb on

    I’ve always been fascinated by dioramas. In my hometown in Illinois, the state museum had a room full of historical dioramas, perfectly built giving us a glimpse of a time or place that is frozen in the tiny room.

    Here, as well, Barbie’s miniature mess holds the same fascination. I enjoy discovering the detail that the artist considered important enough to add to the scene.

    My students are always making dioramas for their Social Studies or Language Arts class. I love seeing all of them, even the bad ones.

  10. posted by April on

    Some of the pictures look just like my in-laws’ house… D:

  11. posted by Jodi on

    My first thought was it WAS someone’s house and that “miniature” referred to the size of the overall art project.

    I believe art is intended to be expressive, and influence the lives of those who see or experience it. I do not think all art needs to be joyful (i.e. an artistic memorial statue remembering 9-11 would invoke sad memories for many, but would still be art).

    This creation does that, it seems, for better or worse…touches lives, inspires thought, maybe will inspire change for some. The fact that its miniature is very impressive, how much work and detail must have gone into that creation!

    That being said, it is a very uncomfortable picture to look at, because it truly does reflect the way some people live. I don’t like it, and I am in awe of it, all at the same time.

    Thanks for sharing this Erin!

  12. Profile photo of Erin Doland

    posted by Erin Doland on

    @Egirl — I’m only three courses away from a degree in painting (I changed majors to journalism mid-way through undergrad). In a couple of my art classes, I had to work in miniature and it is very difficult. One painting I did, a portrait, was only 2″ x 3″ and it took me nine days to complete. Creating itty bitty pizza boxes and stitching on tiny pieces of clothing and all of the things this artist did took hundreds upon hundreds of hours. The detail is astounding and I’m fascinated by all of the work she put into it. I’m also fascinated by the incredible “realness” of it all. The clutter provokes such strong reactions, too. She did an excellent job at creating artwork that gets people thinking about the world around them. Would I hang this in my home? Probably not. Am I glad it exists? Most certainly.

  13. posted by Christina on

    The Barbie as Hoarder set-ups are examples of very good craftsmenship, but they are not art.

  14. posted by JustGail on

    Fascinating! I have to say that while I know art isn’t always pretty and happy, I don’t think I’d have these on my walls. On the other hand, if they were on my walls, the constant reminder of what could be might be more inspiring to get to clearing some things out. Somehow those TV shows tend to fade from my mind when it comes time to gather the fortitude to tackle the problem areas.

    It might be fairly easy to make a few pieces in miniature for a dollhouse, but to do so many and have all work together in these photos – like Erin said – not easy, not fast. Well Done, Ms Becker!

  15. posted by Kat on

    I agree with both the fascinating-from-a-creation-standpoint and I-don’t-want-to-own-this-art perspective. But truthfully there is not much art that I see in museums that I would like to hang in my home and with that said, I travel to many museums that display “artifacts” that are not wall worthy for me. I view this as an artifact that recreates some people’s (sad) reality – not much different from a set designer from a movie scene.

    I think the most intriguing part is that she begins with a very realistic room – dishes in the sink, cups on the table – and then adds the hoard to the tiny room. I had a very detailed doll house as a teenager – complete with baseboards, electric chandeliers, tiled floors, etc – but it never had any clutter… interesting thought.

    And Barbie in her “perfect” world may indeed have some flaws. Isn’t her life full of clutter? (I have twin girls with way too many Barbie accessories, a giant Barbie house from the 80’s and not one closet or storage container in her house – it’s all in bins in MY house) :)

  16. posted by joanna | 365declutterchallenge on

    Of course Barbie would be a hoarder. She has to spend so much psychological energy keeping up her ridiculous figure that she needs some outlet for all of the stress!

  17. posted by Anita on

    Hoarding belittled. Literally. :)

    Impressive feat, and an interesting intellectual experiment.

  18. posted by Alix on

    Of course, if this were really Barbie’s trashed dreamhouse, all the garbage would be a lot more pink.

  19. posted by Gina Keesling on

    I don’t think art has to be pleasant to look at, or only provoke good feelings to be considered art. If it causes the viewer to think about things in a different way for having viewed it, then I think it qualifies. With that said, however, there is a lot of art that I personally don’t care for.

    I probably wouldn’t have given this a second look beyond morbid curiosity, but it fit PERFECTLY into an email newsletter that I was writing for my company – promoting the sale of odds and ends products that had morphed into clutter in our warehouse. You can read the finished product here: http://archive.constantcontact.....31815.html

    Keep up the good work. I enjoy unclutterer immensely.

  20. posted by Shalin on

    pragmatic side of me: why not do this to a regular room? less time & expense I think.

    artistic/craft side: WOW – what imagination and detail! Impressive!

  21. posted by Susie on

    This is the coolest thing I have seen in a long time. It is so realistic. I love miniatures but this takes them to a whole new level. This should be shared with the Greenleaf Community, they would love it! Great site by the way!

  22. posted by Laetitia in Australia on

    I’m glad you told us this was a miniature – I saw that first pic you have linked and thought it was a real room.

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