Ben Manns, Coffee Table
William Smith
Brian Kolakowski, Self Portrait
David Ellsworth, Low Ovoid

Past Exhibitions

Across the Grain

A Regional Exhibition of Artists Working in Wood

December 5, 2008 – January 24, 2009
Ethel Sergeant Clark Smith Gallery

Mark Sfirri

Curator’s Statement

The focus of this exhibition is the diverse use of wood as a material in the broad and overlapping categories of furniture, sculpture, and woodturning.  The artists selected include students, emerging, and long established artists, in order to showcase work from artists in various stages of their careers.  This region is rich in talent, and the roots of the development of the medium of wood are quite deep here.

David Ellsworth is a leader in the growth of woodturning as an art form. He lives in Quakertown, Pennsylvania and in Colorado.  His hollow forms are recognized internationally and have inspired a generation of turners.

George Nakashima spent his entire furniture-making career in nearby Solebury, Pennsylvania.  His work is characterized by clean lines, by the use of natural edges or the “wane” of the tree, and by decorative, structural “butterflies” to keep the table tops secure and in alignment.  His work continues to grow in popularity as important examples of mid-century design.  Although Nakashima died in 1990, the Nakashima Studio continues today under the leadership of his daughter, Mira Nakashima-Yarnell, whose own work is seen here as well.

The work of Wharton Esherick represented in the exhibition shows some of the range of the work that he produced in his career.  The earliest of the woodcuts and block prints here date back to 1923, and nearly half of them were illustrations in beautiful limited edition books titledSong of the Broad-Axe, Song of Solomon, and Tristram and Iseult, which were produced between 1924 and 1930. Sculpture was his favorite form of expression and we have a few pieces on display, as well as some of his furniture, the medium for which he is best known. All of the Esherick pieces are from the collection of Nat and Rose Rubinson of Merion, Pennsylvania, and collected between 1951 and 1967.  I want to thank Geoffrey Berwind, the Rubinson’s grandson, for lending this work.

By including the work of George Nakashima and Wharton Esherick, we’ve provided examples of the foundations of later work, affording the viewer an historical context for the examples in the rest of the exhibition.

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