Miniature theaters are a natural fit at the big Senator

Found objects are `Theaters of the 13th Dimension'

Arts: museums, literature

January 15, 2004|By Glenn McNatt | Glenn McNatt,SUN ART CRITIC

When long-time Senator Theatre owner Tom Kiefaber first read about the miniature theaters of local artist Sally Mericle last year, a bright, incandescent bulb of inspiration switched on in the impresario's brain.

"I thought, `She's got lots of little teeny tiny theaters, and I've got a great big one,' " Kiefaber recalled. "What could be more interesting than bringing the two together?"

Which is why when the Senator brought The Return of the King, the final installment of the popular Lord of the Rings trilogy, to its big screen last month, four of Mericle's little theaters were set up on display in the Senator's circular lobby.

Mericle said at first she thought someone was playing a practical joke on her when Kiefaber called to ask whether she would bring her theaters to his.

"But then I thought it's really kind of a natural fit," Mericle recalled. "It was kind of exciting."

Mericle, who calls her diminutive installations the "Theaters of the 13th Dimension," creates her miniature stage sets out of found objects redolent with the magical aura of the recent and remote past -- old toys, postcards, bits of jewelry and fine fabric, maps, thimbles, playing cards, etc.

Out of such humble materials the artist assembles an alternate universe in which almost anything is possible. In the 13th dimension, tiny ballerinas balance on tightropes made of thread, birds are enormous creatures that dwarf their human captors, and a dejected cleaning lady bends on hands and knee as she begins the daunting task of scrubbing the entire state of Texas.

In her most recent work, Mericle, also known as the artist Mars Tokyo, has tweaked the powers-that-be in the political tugs of war that have been heating up as the country approaches November's presidential elections. In the 13th dimension, it seems, even artworks have the power to make a difference.

Mericle's miniature theaters will remain on view in the Senator's lobby for at least another month or so, Kiefaber said.

"The first couple of nights of The Return of the King we had 800 people for each show, so I was a little reluctant to ask them all to stop in the lobby on the way out," Kiefaber said. "But now it's a little less crowded, and I'm even going to add a line to my talk about Sally's theaters."

The Senator is at 5904 York Road. For ticket and schedule information, call 410-435-8338 or visit www.senator.com.

For more art events, see Page 36.

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