Trouble in Tiny Town
Savage Art Resources, 1430 SE 3rd, through April 30

There is sometimes a split second after you wake up when your dream world and the real world co-exist. For a brief moment, you are certain you killed your boss and his body is under the bed, or that you befriended the last unicorn, or that you married some underwear model you saw on a billboard two weeks before. When the realms of the actual and unreal collide, it's a strange, exhilarating feeling.

That's sort of how Chris Caccamise's work makes me feel. Now showing the exhibit Trouble in Tiny Town at Savage, Caccamise creates a miniature world that is both recognizable and phantasmagoric. Most of the imagery could be found in an old trunk of Fisher-Price toys--locomotives, automobiles, buildings--but it is all constructed out of paper and covered in a final layer of enamel paint. Caccamise's attention to detail and painstaking labor is combined with an acute sense of both aesthetics and play.

A close inspection of Broken Hammer for example, reveals not only an intricate model of a broken hammer, but tiny details of a mountain and a lake at each splintered end of the handle--the busted utilitarian tool is juxtaposed with an idyllic landscape. Other works feature mailboxes arranged on a tri-level platform like Olympians awaiting their medals (it's called Best Mailbox), an axe-wielding machine called Mountain Splitter, and a coffin floating on a multi-colored plume of clouds.

"The items are combined in a way that almost makes sense in our world but seems just a bit unusual," Caccamise told me. "Hopefully it works in such a way that it forces you to reconsider the function of each individual part of the object."

While early practitioners of Pop Art such as Claus Oldenburg crafted iconic, banal images into ridiculously large monuments, Caccamise shrinks these images down to a toy-like level, combines them in ambiguous pairings and leaves it up to the audience to sort out their playfully potential meanings. Cartoonish and witty, Trouble in Tiny Town provides Portland with an early look at an emerging national talent.