Mario Patino rarely has an image in mind when he creates his pieces. Each work forms organically, layer by layer, like an excavation in reverse. For a piece like Barrio Kitchen, the imagined tenant takes shape like a shadow, touching everything, quietly; their story unfolds in the countless details that Patino leaves for his viewers like a trail of crumbs. Patino delights in these details, making his rooms and vignettes feel lived in, used, and rough around the edges. For Barrio Kitchen, he spent countless hours distressing the paint, chipping off tiles, and letting rusty hued drips leave traces of disrepair. He used actual coffee to make the coffee stains on the coffee pot, and real duct tape to patch the battered seats at the cramped kitchen table. As he covers the broom bristles with grime, and carefully bends each tiny cigarette to appear snuffed out by tired hands, Patino is filling the room with a human presence that is acutely felt, if never seen. Many of the details are taken directly from his memories of the South Tucson Barrio neighborhood where he grew up. The framed print of Leonardo da Vinci’s The Last Supper hanging on the wall is a nod to the one which hung in the kitchen of his own childhood home.
Mario Patino prefers to work in playscale, where one inch in miniature equals six inches in life-size – meaning that this kitchen would be suitable for figures of a similar size to Barbie. The majority of the pieces in our museum’s collection are 1:12 scale, where one inch in miniature equals 12 inches in life-size, which is why Barrio Kitchen appears roughly twice as big as those around it.
As a miniaturist, Mario Patino isn’t interested in picturesque scenes of faraway places. Instead, the majority of his work captures scenes of everyday life for the working class, often depicting the struggles of those trapped in society’s margins. Though many of his miniature scenes are often derelict at best, there is also a tenderness and familiarity to them, as well as humorous details to reward those who look closely.
The rooms in which we live can tell a story about who we are – what story does Barrio Kitchen tell you about the person who lives here?