Monday, July 19, 2010

Historical Woods Show @ Furniture Society Conference

While wondering around the Furniture Society Conference a few of weeks ago, I came across this interesting exhibit of work by a number of famous furniture makers using trees from historically important American sites, many of which have documentation of being planted by the likes of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, and others. For example, Thomas Jefferson wrote a letter in 1807 in which he mentioned planting a tulip poplar in the exact location that a dead tulip poplar was removed from in 2008 and, hence, used for many of these works of art.

The exhibit, titled National Treasures: History in the Making, is the vision of William E. Jewell who co-curated the show with renowned wood artist Jacques Vesery, and has been organized by Historical Woods of America. In addition to the great furniture artists that were featured in this show, sculptural works were also made by renowned artists Binh Pho, David Ellsworth, Mark Lindquist, and Robyn Horn as well as Jacques Versery. Images of all these works are included in a very nice catalog which can be seen here.

This piece by Wendy Maruyama, titled Fractured, is part of her E.O. 9066 series, a references to the executive order President Roosevelt signed allowing for the internment of Japanese Americans. The piece is made from Thomas Jefferson's elm tree and references the fragmenting effects, both emotional and physical, of the historic event. I think, knowing the background makes it a more powerful piece, but on its own it is just really cool. I like the original nature of having the doors slide at different angles, allowing the user to create different works of art by moving them around.
12" x 85" x 15"

Thomas Jefferson's Monticello Elm

Wendy Maruyama

Fractured closeup

Silas Kopf created this Founding Father's Writing Desk and Thomas Hucker created a complementary writing chair, Dearest Sally, both with Silas's marquetry. The desk appears to have an initial draft of the Declaration of Independence with the line, "We hold this truth to be self-evident," and "this truth" is crossed out to be replaced by "these truths". The chair appears to have a letter hidden on the lower level and folded over with only the words, "Dearest Sally" revealed. These are both classic examples of the humor Silas often imbues into his work.
Founding Fathers Writing Desk
30" x 52" x 20"
Silas Kopf
Dearest Sally
32" x 20" x 20"
Thomas Hucker
both made with
George Washington Whiskey Distillery Walnut
w/fifteen different historic woods for marquetry (by Silas Kopf)

Thomas also created this pair of side tables on his own. It takes the concept of pie crust tables and makes them completely contemporary. As with the writing desk chair and many of the pieces on his website, bringing traditional designs into contemporary life is something he often tends to do.
Washington Side Tables
24" x 16" x 24"
George Washington Whiskey Distillery Walnut

Thomas Hucker

Brian Newell created this scroll case because of the importance of documents to the founding of the nation and he made it out of wood associated with James Monroe and James Madison, at least in part, because of their importance in creating many of the countries early documents. The top of the case has carved calligraphic fragment lettering (difficult to visualizer from this angle).
Scroll Case
7.5" x 6.5" x 21.5"
James Monroe Boxwood and James Madison Cedar of Lebonon
Brian Newell

Garry Knox Bennett's work commonly features odd juxtapositions and this chair, made with Thomas Jefferson tulip poplar and Formica ColorCore, is no exception. He used a Rietveld Zig Zag chair design because of its distance from the Windsor-style chair and added a writing-arm because Thomas Jefferson supposedly had something to do with adding them to Windsor chairs. It is a completely modern piece and, I think, pretty optimistic because it forces the viewer to look toward the future.
Post Windsor Writing Chair
30.75" x 21" x 28.25"
Thomas Jefferson's Monticello Tulip Poplar,
ColorCore™ , PVC, paint
Garry Knox Bennett

Michael Cullen's intricately carved chest is a celebration of what George Washington called "the first nation in history that is based on an idea, and the idea is one of essential human dignity and justice." Using walnut from Mount Vernon, he carved the entire outer body of the chest, including the bead work on the top and included numerous symbolic references to the thirteen original colonies as a way of conveying the original ideas upon which the country was founded.
A Chest for a New Idea
30" x 27" x 11"
Mount Vernon Walnut, George Washington
Whiskey Distillery Walnut, milk paint
Michael Cullen

William Jewell also included a couple of his own pieces in the show. They are made with saguaro cactus skeletons from the Tohono O'odham Indian Reservation and have a historical significance of a different nature through the witnessing of many transformations within the Tohono O'odham culture. Their inclusion in the show adds a cultural twist and his use of saguaro cactus skeletons adds a unique sculptural element that is both mysterious and beautiful (note: saguaro cactus is a protected species and a permit is needed to harvest and transport them (dead or alive) out of Arizona, as stated here).
36" x 22" x 22"
Jarrah Burl (Australia), Saguaro Cactus Skeleton (Sonora Desert)
William E. Jewell

38" x 88" x 16"
Figured Walnut (Virginia), Saguaro Cactus Skeleton (Sonora Desert)
William E. Jewell

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Best Laid Plans

If you have been following my blog, you realize that I had an almost foolproof plan to win $250,000 at this year's ArtPrize contest in Grand Rapids, MI. However, in spite of my (objectively speaking) brilliant idea, I didn't get any significant response from participating venues to display the work. How anybody could have read my proposal and not have instantly understood that I was going to create one of the great works of art the world has yet to see is beyond my comprehension, but then, great works of art often take decades after they are created for the public to appreciate them so I shouldn't be surprised that a mere proposal would have been instantly hailed. I'm still committed to making the piece but it will likely take longer than I expected to become a world famous artist. Oh well, on to the next plan.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Modes of Making @ Society of Arts and Crafts

The Society of Arts and Crafts curated an inspiring furniture show that also coincided with the Furniture Society Conference in Boston, titled Modes of Making, and exhibited June 5 to August 14. It features a wide range of art, some functional, some not; some contemporary, some traditional; mostly made of wood, but also some metal.

My favorite piece is, again, one made by Bart Niswonger. His F.O.M. Cabinet, which very much resembles Swiss cheese, is very inventive. I couldn't figure out how he cut the holes so I asked. It turns out he used a vertical mill, a tool I hadn't been familiar with but which is essentially a drill press on steroids used primarily for metal work. Bart made custom cutters for this piece.

FOM Cabinet
Bart Niswonger
I like how SAC painted the wall behind it green, making the piece really stand out. The rest of the gallery was painted off white. They must have thought a lot of it as well since they gave it the prime spot at the entrance.
I also really like this this table by Reagan Furqueron. It is a nice blend of functional and sculptural work with a little bit of humor.
Coffee Table w/Boot
Reagan Furqueron
Another piece with humor is My Casket by Shaun Bullens. The piece includes a video that you can see through a small peep hole on the right side. It shows Shaun pulling the coffin through city streets for about 30 minutes (I didn't watch the whole thing). I was told that the work was inspired by Herman Melville's Moby Dick. It combines fine woodworking, rough carpentry, video art, and conceptual art. The veneer of the base has a fiery motif on the far side as well. I think it is funny that someone would create a casket titled, My Casket, and have offer it for sale. If someone buys it, do you ask for it back when you need it?
My Casket
Shaun Bullens
This sculpture by Sylvie Rosenthal is also conceptual. Titled, Equilibrium: Balance III, it includes sixteen metal cubes engraved with words of emotion -- grief, love, fury, chaos, regret, temptation, joy, terror, compassion, loving kindness, vice, desire, clarity, greed, passion, forgiveness -- below a balance. It entices one to play and find out if these words really create an equilibrium. At least in her sculptural world, they do.
Equilibrium: Balance III
Sylvie Rosenthal
One of the more traditionally designed pieces is this finely crafted chair by Paula Garbarino. The design is original and with the narrow back rest and three legs, it has foot in the contemporary furniture world as well.
Begonia Tripod Chair
Paula Garbarino
Yuri Kobayashi created this purely sculptural piece, Believing. I'm not sure what the title refers to but it reminds me of early Wright Brothers airplanes, perhaps it has something to do with believing and accomplishing the impossible. It is certainly a very complicated construction, looking simultaneously fragile and strong.
Yuri Kobayashi

I had read on-line that it was made of ash and sterling silver before seeing it in person but couldn't figure out where the silver was so I made a point of looking closely when I got there -- she used silver pins to hold the through tenons in place.
Finally, Will Tracey created these cool Japanesque Flat Head Stools with cherry, poplar, and paint. Seeing them in person once again reminded me how different work looks in photographs. They were chosen for the show post card which somehow gave me the impression that they were much larger. At 18" high, they are actually a good stool height, but they have a very diminutive look that made me double check the dimensions.
Will Tracey
Flat Head Stools