I fell in love with ladder-backed chairs when I was in elementary school.
Our home was pretty formal. Our dining room table was dark wood with matching chairs and needlepoint cushions.
But the home of my best school pal was what I considered to be a fun home. Their house rules were a little looser. And the dining room was filled with Mexican pottery and colorful table runners. And mismatched ladder-back chairs. I loved them!
I remembered this today when I came across a textile collage I created several years ago based on a visit to the now-grownup home of that same family. This simple piece of furniture has become a favorite personal symbol. I have repeated it in works ever since I began monotype printing paper and fabric in 2011.
I don’t think an artist can go about arbitrarily deciding to have a personal symbol. An image will be most meaningful if it is discovered or remembered. Sometimes the inspiration is a physical attribute or shape. Sometimes it is a memory. For me, the use of the chair has evolved and reappeared in works in ways that I sometimes don’t expect.
This is a work that’s also several years old. But it’s one that continues to speak to me.. The chair works as a device to travel into the scene.
I created “Something Else Will Grow There” in 2018. Here, the chairs are a way to introduce a character into the memory. Of course, the chair is empty. But its emptiness implies that somebody used to be there, which becomes part of the story.
This quilt was inspired by an abandoned, roofless house in rural South Carolina. It was filled with intricate patterns of overgrown vines. The light through the vines created mesmerizing patterns. I created child-like houses to contain the image in the quilt, and gave each home an abandoned chair. Neither chair is set firmly on the ground. Afloat, they are part of the memory.
I created “Overgrown Conversation” (below) in 2019 for the SAQA Florida “Perspectives” exhibit in Tallahasseee. It was inspired by the photographs of the abandoned windows. The vines growing over and through the windows imply the passage of time as the windows have been abandoned and forgotten. I wanted to introduce the concept of conversation into the composition, and – again – chairs became a device to suggest something missing. Who sat in the chairs? Where are they now?
As much as I love pure color and design, I find that again and again I am drawn to create works that have a storytelling component, I enjoy digging into the narrative component. Other symbols reappear in my work also. But the chair remains a favorite.
FESTIVAL COUNTDOWN… I’ll be exhibiting in two more Festivals in 2091. If you are nearby, I hope you’ll come visit.
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