Friday, September 20, 2013

Not Your Grandma's Davenport

Posted By on Fri, Sep 20, 2013 at 6:00 AM

When most people hear the words "furniture and museum" in the same breath, they probably think of antique rockers or Early American cabinets that came out of someone's attic. That mindset presents some challenges when an institution takes on the task of creating and drawing a crowd to a furniture exhibition. When the exhibition focuses on works designed and produced by studio fine art furniture makers here in Indiana, the challenge could be especially daunting.

click to enlarge "Fluxus" by Dustin Headley - COURTESY OF INDIANA STATE MUSEUM
  • Courtesy of Indiana State Museum
  • "Fluxus" by Dustin Headley

In its upcoming NiSource Gallery exhibition, the Indiana State Museum takes on this challenge with "Fearless Furniture." Curated and organized by Decorative Arts Curator David Buchanan, along with Collections Manager Meredith McGovern and myself, the exhibit opens on Oct. 5. We've organized the pieces to provide an in-depth look at contemporary and traditional furniture designs, including works by many of the top artisans working today. Internationally recognized furniture designer Wendy Murayama juried the exhibition, selecting 21 artists who will join three guest artists - all with connections to Indiana.

If you think a furniture exhibition would be something of a snore, be prepared to check your preconceived notions at the door. This show packs a punch. Without sacrificing tradition, innovation or quality, Murayama gives something to everyone here. Old-school, traditional woodworking techniques are represented in pieces by Randall O'Donnell and Nancy Hiller. A very different approach can be seen in the Computer Numerically Controlled (CNC) technology designs by Tim Fuller and Dustin Headley. You'll find high tech, low tech, wood, metal, found objects, hand-painted and automotive high polish finishes. While some of the work looks more like it belongs on pedestals at the IMA than in a home, everything in the show is a functional piece of furniture.

click to enlarge Star Chair by Glen Fuller - COURTESY OF INDIANA STATE MUSEUM
  • Courtesy of Indiana State Museum
  • Star Chair by Glen Fuller

At the heart of the show is the passion and commitment of these artists to their art form - hence the title "Fearless Furniture." Like any profession, in the art world, a small group of practitioners operate a bit under the radar. Fine art furniture makers are just such a breed.Spend a few minutes with these folks (I did; we videotaped several for a segment that will play during the run of the show), and you'll quickly catch on. In a world where most furniture is mass-produced, these artists are bucking the trend and creating truly exceptional one-of-a kind furniture pieces. They approach each piece as a problem to be solved, using the three most important tools in their tool boxes - their eyes, hands and brain - to get the job done.

When these artists are pressed to talk about their work, the conversation easily shifts from materials and techniques to what drives them to create. There's no mention of skimping on materials or watching the clock. They have a mindset of getting into a creative zone and pushing the boundaries until they exceed their own expectations. Retired Herron Furniture Professor, Phil Tennant, likened it to, "a dog chasing his tail; what I'm after is just beyond my grasp. The perfect form I crave is just beyond my reach." Phil's thoughts are not the exception; they're pretty much the universal attitude of the exhibition. Nashville, Indiana artist, Randy O'Donnell's, Grandfather Clock, is very traditional in appearance, but the artist is quite clear that he is a contemporary craftsman who chooses to use traditional designs and techniques to make his work. The work is his, not a historic reproduction. From the feedback I'm getting about the show, there's quite a bit of enthusiasm for the exhibition and Maruyama's talk. If you have an interest in furniture design, fine art, quality craftsmanship or just beautiful objects, then mark your calendars - this is an event you won't want to miss. 

"Fearless Furniture" opens at the Indiana State Museum and Historic Sites on Oct. 5, 2013, and continues through May 25, 2014. Wendy Maruyama will present a lecture at the Museum on Friday, Oct. 11 at 4 p.m. A reception celebrating the opening of the exhibition will follow the lecture. Both events are free and open to the public, but seating is limited for the talk and reception, so an RSVP is required. To reserve seats, call the museum at 317-232-1633.

  • Pin It
  • Favorite
  • Email

Tags: , , , , ,

Speaking of...

  • Hurts So Good

    Indy's cultural attractions help soothe the soul and fuel an active mind and restless body, while injuries mend.
    • Aug 10, 2015
  • Stars of the Show

    A patchwork of past and present styles, the newest exhibit at the Indiana State Museum highlights Hoosier quilting artists as it kicks off the state's bicentennial celebration.
    • Jun 23, 2015
  • Silver Screen Daydream

    If movie directors came to Indy to scout out filming locations, what beloved buildings, landmarks and neighborhoods would they feature? Jennifer has a few ideas.
    • Mar 18, 2015
  • More »


Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

Readers also liked…

  • Well-Endowed Artists

    Jennifer draws Seinfeld-esque parallels to artists' financial challenges with education, but offers easy ways to help.
    • Mar 2, 2016
  • Positive Impressions

    Ben chats with IMA’s artist-in-residence about introducing the process of woodblock printmaking to the masses.
    • Jan 10, 2016

About The Author

Mark Ruschman

Mark Ruschman

Mark Ruschman and Indy art go way back. For 25 years, he ran Ruschman Gallery along Mass Ave showcasing all levels of art, local to national. After that, he opened Ruschman Fine Art and worked as a private dealer and appraiser. He closed Ruschman Fine Art in 2012 to assume his current role as Chief Fine Arts Curator... more

More by Mark Ruschman

  • Installation Sensation

    Mark chats with one Installation Nation artist about how placing art in outdoor settings changes the experience for the creator and the audience.
    • May 2, 2014
  • A Perfect Fit

    Mark talks with Herron School of Art & Design's new gallery assistant director, Mike Barclay - a recent intern and now colleague.
    • Apr 18, 2014
  • iMOCA Squared

    Mark gets the scoop on the downtown Indy's double-dip of iMOCA coming next fall.
    • Apr 4, 2014
  • More »

Latest in Sky Blue Blog

  • The Nice Things

    Ben has enjoyed his opportunity to give notice to some of Indy’s 'nice things' with Sky Blue Window readers. He hopes you’ll find and share them too.
    • Mar 9, 2016
  • A Gray Sky-onara

    Dan looks back at some of his most memorable blogs at Sky Blue Window.
    • Mar 8, 2016
  • Well-Endowed Artists

    Jennifer draws Seinfeld-esque parallels to artists' financial challenges with education, but offers easy ways to help.
    • Mar 2, 2016
  • More »
© 2017 CICF
Privacy Policy
Contact Us:
P: 317.634.2423   F: 317.684.0943
Central Indiana Community Foundation
615 N. Alabama St. #119
Indianapolis, Indiana 46204-1431
Sky Blue Window is presented by:

Website powered by Foundation