Past is Present: Contemporary Approaches to Historical Decorative Arts and Design
May 5 - July 22, 2012
Contemporary artists are breathing new life into techniques and forms found in centuries-old decorative arts and design. This exhibition will explore reinterpretations of stained glass, embroidery, hair work, cut paper, wall coverings, ceramics, portrait miniatures, and wood-working. The stained glass works of Judith Schaechter unite traditional technique, luminous beauty, and decorative pattern with fantastical imagery that introduces a contemporary edge. Laura Splan embroiders discarded facial peel to produce delicate heirloom-inspired objects that explore attitudes about the human body. Loren Schwerd evokes the Victorian tradition of hairwork in her portraits of vacant houses in flood-ravaged New Orleans that she makes from human hair extensions. Medieval woodcuts and nineteenth century silhouettes, as well as film noir and comic books, inspire Matt Haffner’s wall-sized cut paper work that he accompanies with video installation. Wallpaper designer Dan Funderburgh has a great appreciation for both the ornate and utilitarian, and his work combines the language of historical decorative arts with the shapes of everyday objects. The bas-reliefs of Jedediah Morfit join traditional sculptural technique with a contemporary sensibility, producing works that resemble Wedgwood cameos as imagined by a modern-day Hieronymus Bosch. Elizabeth Berdann is interested in the intersection of the physical and the psychological, and her miniature self-portraits examine the effect of emotions on facial expressions. Reminiscent of the complex altarpieces and religious tableaux so prevalent during the Middle Ages and Renaissance, Holly Lane’s small-scale paintings are surrounded with frames that she carves and paints to amplify the paintings’ themes about contemporary life.