Lothar Osterburg makes photogravures of small, sculpted models of windmills, lighthouses, sailboats among others, staged in evocative settings. Built from memory of readily available materials, the models have a dreamlike quality which is enhanced by the placement of the camera within their world; the perspective is that of a person within the set, obscuring the actual size of the objects. The viewer, drawn into the scene, fills the gap created by the absence of people. The smallest models are photographed through a magnifying glass or with a macro lens. With this extremely short focal range, the scenes become ambiguous, mysterious, or even ominous while somehow retaining the playful quality typical of Osterburg’s hand.
Whether in his studio, or against the rocky coast of Maine’s Mount Desert Island, or in a microcosm of frozen tire tracks at the MacDowell Colony, the staged settings enhance the textures of the artist’s eccentrically diverse materials, creating a tension between the representational and the realistic.
A downed mulberry tree from his Brooklyn backyard spawned an entire rough-hewn coastal village. Tall ships made of firewood, twigs and toilet paper, a translucent glycerin lighthouse on a potato island, recycled plumbing supplies, glass doorknobs, soap and a stormy sea made of peanut butter all appear in this delightful, buoyant world.