After quite a while, I’m back in the studio. The house in Housatonic—which saw a complete renovation and rehab, including the building of a nearly 1000 square foot studio dug into the grade on the east side of the house, complete with green roof, and which had been the workshop for much of the house work—is complete (as “complete” as any such project gets), and the space’s purpose has finally been put to its intended use. Although I’ve had a couple of exhibits and had made some art during the last couple of years, I’m now fully operational in the studio. The “Little Lady End Table” is one of the recent pieces completed, as well as a commission I’ll post shortly.
Little Lady end table started with a rather anonymous wood box (20 inches long, by 11 inches deep, by 12 inches wide) that could have held anything, but without any label or stencil to suggest the specific original purpose. The box is mounted on carved Queen Anne legs, with a skirt of maple and trimmed variously, including a multi-wood base and top piece, standing at 30 inches. The interior of the refinished box is upholstered with fabric, with the back covered with some home-made paper I created some years ago that incorporates lace ribbon, and on which an early Nineteenth Century etching of a portrait of a sitting lady—an early form of bourgeoisie art for the burgeoning home. The top of the inner box has a plane of Ethernet and telephone modem cards, and a toggle-switched small incandescent flood lamp (40 watts); several other objects—including a large feather, a tiny bell and some buttons, and the ivory brush plate dug up during earth moving—populate the interior, and another large feather trims the bottom plane and skirt. The top surface has a sheet of marbled paper by a local friend (Lauren Clark), under a plate of glass.
Much of my art involves recycled material, and I’m especially drawn to functional art that takes old boxes and shipping crates as the design starting point, counter-puncher that I am. Often my work has furniture-like elements to it, and Little Lady end table is a good example: Is the piece an assemblage sculpture or is it furniture?
The use of found objects has emerged as a popular medium these days, and despite the New Yorker cartoon of a few years back (man looking at something on a pedestal in a gallery: “Oh great. More found crap.”), the fact is that we live in a world which holds huge amounts of man-made things, and this is a fairly new phenomenon. It really has been only in the last 200-300 years—at least in the developed world—that most people have far more than objects beyond a few homespun clothes and utensils and tools. But today, most parts of the world have people who seem to be drowning in stuff.
Paints and pigments, gems, paper, wood, clay and metals, and people’s voices and bodies, have a longer history as art media, but manufactured material—especially mass-produced objects—have become another type of medium, and, in some fundamental ways, a medium in which, like the air we breathe, we live in. Just think of the ubiquitous media—photos, pictures, text, video, recorded music—that in their overwhelming volume must be strange and bizarre to people who lived as recently as the Eighteen Century. Three hundred years ago, if you had metal cutlery or manufactured clothes, you were among the elite.
An interesting aspect of this change is that for us these mass-produced items tend to be infused with nostalgia—or, at least, nostalgia can be readily projected by us onto them. This makes, I think, a wealth of readily available and powerful meaning, ready metaphors of what it is to be human now.
But wait. Little Lady is also a lamp! Now how much would you pay, as Ron Popeil might say? Available for only $650, exclusive of shipping. Act now, my friends!