A place to rest, work, wait for an appointment, or have dinner with family, the chair is an important, yet often underappreciated part of life.
Visitors can see this familiar object through artistic lenses in the Moss Arts Center’s summer exhibition, “Sitting Pretty: The Chair Re-Envisioned.” Artists from Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, and Tennessee expand upon traditional forms and cultural associations, re-imagining the possibilities of what a chair is and can be.
Also on view is an exhibition featuring a succinct selection of photographs by conceptual artist and pioneering video artist William Wegman. Presented for the first time in Virginia, “Sit!” features Wegman's beloved subject — Weimaraners — on tables and chairs created by renowned architects and designers Charles and Ray Eames and George Nakashima.
“Sitting Pretty: The Chair Re-Envisioned” opens with a reception on June 21 from 5-7 p.m. in the Grand Lobby of the Moss Arts Center, located at 190 Alumni Mall.
More than just a place to rest, chairs offer a glimpse into the world’s collective ideas about status, comfort, beauty, utility, and place. From office chairs to thrones, the chair is often synonymous with place in society, role in the family, or station in life. The exhibition presents a selection of contemporary chairs expertly crafted with a variety of materials, styles, and techniques. These unique and inventive chairs push beyond expectation and even functionality into new realms of design and expression and invite viewers to see what is usually considered an ordinary object with a fresh perspective.
“Sitting Pretty: The Chair Re-Envisioned” will feature more than 30 works, some created specifically for the exhibition, from these artists:
Sugar Grove, North Carolina
Atkins explores both the hard lines and soft shapes that can be created with wood. Interested in showcasing the versatility and innate beauty of this medium, he creates chairs with contrasting woods and mathematically precise inlays using organic shapes reminiscent of those found in nature.
Inspired by the history and community of artists and craftsmen in the Shenandoah Valley, Bannan created a body of chairs for this exhibition depicting geographic features with historic or cultural significance, including strategic locations of import to the Civil War.
Bonhoff’s work showcases the curved, bent-wood forms that reflect his background in boatbuilding. He combines traditional furniture practices, such as joinery and veneering, along with sweeping lines to create elegant and unexpected pieces.
Winston-Salem, North Carolina
Inspired by mid-century Danish furniture, Bruce Bradford incorporates sculptural elements into each piece that he creates, describing them as “functional works of art.” Bradford reinvigorates traditional benches and rocking chair forms with these sculptural elements and decorative wood types.
Mebane, North Carolina
A furniture maker for 30 years, Burrowes is inspired by the classic Windsor seating tradition. He expands on elements from the past and diverse components of form and practice in his designs, with special attention paid to human comfort.
Campbell is a furniture designer and educator who incorporates studies in architecture, residential construction, and technical theater in his fanciful and dramatic furniture creations. Campbell’s benches for Fashoda Junction — a historic and strategic location in African colonial history — imagine constructions that would have been created after troops left the area.
Clark values handmade objects, especially those that embody narratives and well-told stories. With an unconventional take on traditional craft techniques, such as incorporating unravelling braids and all that symbolizes in the chair on view here, Clark imbues her work with the weight of history and the impact of a searing past on issues of race and identity today.
Jacob Cress is a master craftsman who acutely understands the rules of furniture making — and then breaks them. Seemingly animated, full of humor, and even outlandish, Cress’ refreshingly inventive chairs encourage viewers to see ordinary objects differently.
Greensboro, North Carolina
Dean utilizes industrial materials, handcraft, and digital manufacturing methods to create her unusual chairs. Dean generates three-dimensional forms using two-dimensional manufacturing procedures, such as fashion design sewing, upholstery processes, and patterning techniques.
After working with wood for 25 years, Finkel has found beauty in different approaches to the medium. Finkel’s love and understanding for wood manifests itself in his work; he particularly values attention to form and line, both of which are present in his pieces.
Glenn uses the history of furniture and traditions in furniture design to reconsider wood as a furniture-making material in creating innovative pieces. Glenn aims to create recognizable furniture forms with nontraditional materials, particularly steel, that challenge viewers’ conception of furniture.
A master of woodworking, Hintz applies his knowledge of wood’s inherent qualities and the changes that occur naturally in the medium in shaping his especially inventive re-interpretations of the chair form.
Kingston Springs, Tennessee
Imagination, improvisational freedom, humor, and furniture-making techniques converge in Nutt’s artworks. He began vegetable-inspired works over three decades ago and has honored this theme since.
Walsh values the processes involved in furniture making as much as the effect that they have on the audience. Walsh’s interests in psychology and contemplation of society inspire her surrealist furniture.
Virginia Tech School of Architecture + Design’s Center for Design Research
Under the direction of Nathan King, assistant professor of architecture; Mark Leach, wood shop supervisor; and Jonathan Rugh, wood shop craftsman, students in the Center for Design Research worked with Rwandan students and craftsmen to design and produce furniture for the newly opened African Design Center. Building on their work in Rwanda, the center is developing a palette of furniture to outfit a new library at Mzuzu University in Malawi. The chairs in the exhibition are prototypes that demonstrate new forms and ideas about construction techniques available in Malawi.
Winkle is influenced by traditional furniture design techniques and expressive materials, such as hardwood, paint, and graphite. Winkle creates unexpected artworks that possess aspects of distinctiveness and whimsy.
“Sitting Pretty: The Chair Re-Envisioned” is curated by Virginia Tech graduate assistants Sarah Tucker and Emily Bianchi in conjunction with the Moss Arts Center curatorial staff. Tucker and Bianchi are graduate students studying material culture and public humanities, a cross-disciplinary program in the College of Architecture and Urban Studies and the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences. The exhibition is on view through Aug. 12.
The Moss Arts Center’s galleries and all related events are free and open to the public. The galleries are regularly open Monday-Friday, 10 a.m.–5:30 p.m., and Saturday, 10 a.m.–4 p.m.
Parking is available in the North End Parking Garage on Turner Street. Virginia Tech faculty and staff possessing a valid Virginia Tech parking permit can enter and exit the garage free of charge. Limited street parking is also available. Parking on Alumni Mall is free on weekdays after 5 p.m. and on weekends.
If you are an individual with a disability and desire an accommodation, please contact Kacy McAllister at 540-231-5300 or email firstname.lastname@example.org during regular business hours.