A Guide to the Best of Southern California : HANDMADE : Making a Scene

They are like stage sets, with scenery and backdrops against a wall, and, up front, tiny people in a mini-world of art. But Marc Cohen's original works can't found in any lobby--they all seem to be pinned to lapels.

His 2-inch-square box pins are a multimedia mix of photo collages, Cohen's original artwork and--for a three-dimensional effect--plastic human figures. A former actor, stage manager and set designer, Cohen got the idea for the pins seven years ago while working in New York theater. He created many as gifts for thespian friends; the boxes depicted roles they portrayed in plays. "I was looking for another way of self expression as an artist," he says.

He sold the pins on the street in New York and later, in Seattle, San Francisco and Los Angeles, where the art boxes, ranging in price from $20 to $100, have caught the fancy--and lapels--of Robert De Niro and Mel Gibson, Madonna and Whoopi.

At Thanksgiving, Cohen will open The World's Smallest Art Gallery, with a special exhibit of his art boxes, at his Third Street Promenade stand in Santa Monica. "What I intend to do is I have an ongoing exhibit all the time, constantly putting new images on display, because every picture does tell a story."

Marc Cohen's art boxes are available at his Third Street Promenade stand on the 1400 block of 3rd Street, Santa Monica.

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