Barrio Kitchen, Audio Tour Track #3018
Barrio Kitchen, Mario Patino, 2019, 1:6 scale
Barrio Kitchen, created by Mario Patino and acquired by the museum in 2019. This piece was produced in 1:6 scale, where one inch in miniature is equivalent to 6 inches in the full scale.
The structure of Barrio Kitchen is an open roombox with only two walls, a floor, and no ceiling. The two walls meet on one side to create just the corner of a small and simple kitchen. The kitchen is 12 inches deep, fourteen inches long, and sixteen inches high. This kitchen’s size stands out in our galleries because it was designed using 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 twelve inches in life-size, meaning Patino’s work is roughly twice as big as those around it.
What draws visitors immediately to this kitchen is not just its larger size, but the stark and gritty realism of the scene. Like all exceptional miniaturists, Patino strives for perfection; however, the perfection that Patino captures here is not idyllic. The kitchen itself is contemporary – a calendar on the wall to your right shows the year 2012 – but there are no shining modern appliances or handy gadgets. Instead, we see an empty, sparse kitchen with off-white walls that are stained, cracked and peeling. Along the back wall, there are bare pipes leading from a rusty water heater, completely exposed and uncomfortably close to a tiny sink crowded with dirty dishes. Above the sink is a very small window, framed by dusty curtains. The busted windowpane is covered by newspaper, preventing both sunlight and prying eyes. On either side of this window are two bare cupboards, revealing meagre pantry items: a box of cereal, a container of salt, and a few odd cans of food. The only appliance is a stained coffee pot, sitting on a table that is hardly more than a sideboard – built for practicality in tight spaces, not the sharing of family meals. Although there are two chairs at the table, one chair is piled with newspapers, and a pie sits half-eaten with only one spoon. These poignant touches by Patino quietly reveal a solitary existence. You can practically smell the unfinished cigarettes sitting in the ashtray on the table, or the lingering stale scent of a floor not swept in ages. We notice food stains and scattered napkins, and a greasy little rug laying crumpled on the floor near the sink, not far from a tin wash bucket waiting to catch drips from a leaking pipe. An open box of cat food beside the sink lets viewers know that somewhere nearby is a cat for company. Aside from that calendar, which features a retro pin-up girl in a nurse costume, the only decoration is a framed print of Leonardo da Vinci’s The Last Supper hanging on the wall.
Barrio Kitchen, like the vast majority of Mario Patino’s miniature works, is inspired by the South Tucson Barrio neighborhood where he grew up. Patino isn’t interested in picturesque scenes of faraway places. Instead, he 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?