Michael Davydov found a new life in Ukraine. After moving from Russia, he met the woman he’d marry and began building miniature, moss-surrounded homes, carved from clay, placing them in hollowed light bulbs. Davydov had been passionate for arts and crafts since early childhood, trying various media; but his evolving miniature sculptures offered a way to freeze moments in time.
“Coincidentally, I started my current phase of miniature art at a time when I moved very far from my native places,” he says over email, “and perhaps it became, in a sense, the pursuit of the same emotions from the past—the desire to catch and hide a piece of nostalgia under a glass dome. Perhaps that is why the popular subject of my sculptures is a house, like a feeling of a home and a forest, from somewhere in the past.”
Preserved within his delicate glass domes are even more fragile and magical worlds of whimsy, decorated with dry bits of nature (or recreated otherwise). Docile homes on stilts or atop floating mountains or the moon, and usually surrounded by bone-thin trees elongated like giraffe necks. Since 2018, he’s captured these bell jars of inspiration, preserving memories the way a taxidermist breathes new life into animals. But then that feeling of home was uprooted.
This month marks the one-year anniversary of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. He describes the tragedy as “a burnt hole in [his] heart.” After filling their backpacks and gathering cans of food, he and his wife eventually escaped, settling in Denmark. The miniature artist, however, didn’t immediately have supplies for sculptures. Fortunately, some Danes donated acrylics and canvas to Ukrainian refugees, so Davydov instead painted a similar stilted house on fire in a sunflower field to express his emotional state, missiles raining down just beyond it.
“I know that many people need peace, and I continue to create peace in my work despite still not having peace within [myself],” he says. “It is not difficult to see in my works the idea of the fragility of the world, behind thin glass—in photographs where these worlds literally fit in one hand. I broke glass several times and repaired some tiny world that had accidentally fallen, but this will not work with our world. It is alone and it is in our hands.”
Davydov has been able to pick the sculpting back up again, working with a variety of cork, concrete, driftwood, fabric, and paper. One of his more current works entitled “Invasion” was displayed recently at a gallery in Hamburg, Germany. The sculpt holds a personal space within him. It depicts stacked housing in a long glass tube, a pool of water at the bottom and a crater from a missile strike dead in the center.
Still, the artist remains hopeful. “I only want people in Ukraine not to be deprived of the right to live in their country in their homes, speak their native language and raise children under a peaceful sky.”
Find more work by Michael Davydov at @michael_davydov_.