Art Near the Floor
My Accidental Visit to a Mini Museum Involving Tony Danza
courtesy of the artist
I went with a posse to Photographic Center Northwest recently, and after drifting through the exhibit, I headed upstairs to the second floor. At the top of the stairs, I came upon a crowd of the butts of my friends. The group was all crouched down on the floor, leaning into a strange little nook between the edge of the stairs and the wall of the landing. It's a funny in-between spot, that nook, like an architectural accident. About a foot wide and maybe two feet deep, it contained a perfect mini museum—seven tiny framed photographs, each about an inch-by-inch square, hung a couple inches off the ground, complete with wall text. In the middle of the mini space lay a tiny rug, upon which sat a tiny chair, tiny table, tiny lamp.
I understood the crouching immediately. To really see this mini museum, you have to get right down on the floor. You can shove your giant human head only so far inside, but the way it forces you to behave immodestly is brilliant. Here we all were with dusty knees, huddled and craning, captivated. Suddenly, I found my perception of the whole building Alice in Wonderland–ed. I wanted to sit in the chair. And I couldn't stop thinking about what the rest of the space would look like if you could fit in that chair—the vast walls, impassable stair-cliffs, dangerous feet everywhere. The room telescoped out around me. It felt like taking a drug.
The miniature exhibit itself, which has been up for about five years, is almost as strange and enchanting as its size: Ann Pallesen, the Photo Center's "regular human-sized curator and gallery director," as a colleague called her, reminded me of its contents, which I'd entirely forgotten: "The mini gallery features a body of work that is said to be made by Tony Danza." Yes, that Tony Danza.
Pallesen told me it was actually made by a photographer "who prefers to remain anonymous," but who "imagined that Tony Danza was a photographer wannabe, a struggling artist, so to speak." The tiny black-and-white contact prints are of creepy toys and dolls. There is a tiny biography of the artist that tells Tony Danza's real-life story, including his real name—Anthony Iadanza—and his pre-Taxi 1970s professional boxing career. Whoa.
"The chair and rug were added by mysterious fans of the show," says Pallesen, but a signature book that originally accompanied the work "has gone 'missing.' Perhaps swept up by the janitor."
Most importantly, Pallesen announces: "Photo Center Northwest is accepting mini proposals for the space. The running wall space is 96 inches."
MINI PROPOSALS. I can hardly contain my excitement. I urge you to visit the mini museum at the earliest opportunity. Do not avoid getting down on the floor. Do not miss the opportunity to let it shrink and enlarge you.