Hippo Manchester
July 28, 2005

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Art you can sit on (if you own it)

Currier hosts annual Furniture Masters exhibit through Sept. 5

By Abby Ashey

We all have them — in the kitchen, in the living room, even that one in your bedroom that you only use once a day when you tie your shoes.

When is a chair more than a chair? Can your nightstand be more than a nightstand? Can it be art?

The folks at the Currier Museum for the Arts think so, and from now until Sept. 5 they’ll prove it by hosting the New Hampshire Furniture Masters exhibit. The show is, in part, a preview for the Furniture Masters’ Oct. 23 auction at the Wentworth by the Sea Hotel.

The 22 furniture masters hail mostly from New Hampshire with a few from surrounding states. The exhibit is on the main floor of the museum, held in two spacious rooms. The perimeter of these rooms is decked with pieces of furniture-art, ranging from nightstands to lamps to desks.

I was skeptical about going to a furniture exhibit but you haven’t seen furniture until you see this exhibit. Each artist is inspired by something different, which results in very original pieces. 

Jeffrey Cooper, for example, is obviously inspired by nature. He creates pieces such as “Black Bear Pair,” which are absolutely adorable. “Black Bear Pair” could be used as a coffee table, a bench or just as a piece of art. Cooper also crafted a floor lamp, which serves as the home for two Scarlet Macaws, entitled “Scarlet Macaw Floor Lamp.”  Cooper also has created pieces for the Squam Lake Science Center in Holderness.   

Furniture maker Jon Siegel gets his inspiration from a tool, the lathe. A lathe rotates metal or wood,  or whatever material you intend to work with, around its axis, allowing you to carve symmetric lines on to it. This is how Siegel created the “Rosette Table,” which resembles a chess piece with its lines and smoothness.

I also noticed a popular trend — two-tone pieces. The crafters mix woods, primarily dark and light, to complement each other.

My favorite piece was the “Spring Desk,” by Jere Osgood.  A simple piece — a desk, quite a large one, with a place for pens and a spacious work area. The laminated legs are the focal point.  I didn’t quite know what laminated meant until I asked. First I thought Osgood just put something over the wood but, what it means is that he took a one-centimeter-wide piece and affixed it to another one-centimeter-wide piece and so on until he was satisfied with it.

Another standout is “Chest on Stand” by Ted Blachly. This piece has the two-toned look but adds another intriguing aspect — a wood called curly sugar maple. Curly sugar maple has a shimmery, wavy look that adds a lot of depth. The chest part of Blachly’s piece is made of the curly sugar maple and the stand part is made of East Indian rosewood, which is very dark.

Artist Geoffrey Ouellette took full advantage of the curly sugar maple with his piece “Ripple Effect.”

 One of the very first pieces I spotted was “Dancing with Yellow Chair,” by Jon Brooks. It starts out as a normal ladderback chair and works its way up to an Alice In Wonderland-esque piece of furniture. The thing that amazes me about Jon Brooks’ work is that they have these squiggles all over them that, at first glance, look like they are done by a paint brush. With a closer look, you realize they are all hand-carved. 

Whether you’re in the mood for something simple, imaginative or thought-provoking, it’s all here.  It’s a great place to go for inspiration and thought, and I don’t even come close to doing it justice in this review.

Come on down

Museum hours are 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sundays, Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays; 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Thursdays, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturdays.  Admission is free from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturdays; all other times it is $4 to $5.