The new exhibition at the New Hampshire Furniture Masters’ Gallery celebrates women who know their way around a saw.
Three New Hampshire women — Lynn Szymanski, Leah Woods and Vivian Beer — will be showing their work in “Three Women: A Contemporary Approach to Furniture Making” Feb. 15 through April 9. Their work presents a stunning example of the best studio furniture being made today, said New Hampshire Furniture Master and Gallery Director Ted Blachly. This marks the first all-female show in the gallery.
“Although we’re working with different materials, all three of us in the show have a strong relationship to it,” Beer said. “There’s an intimacy that comes with working with material; you’re thinking about the history if its use and the history of its industrial use, past and present.”
You can stop by the Furniture Masters’ Gallery this spring to take a look.
Woods’ furniture has always had a lot of emphasis on the form and the sculptural space, but lately, she’s been moving away from the traditional functions of furniture and exploring how objects can function in different kinds of ways.
For example, one of her pieces she describes as a wall map. It looks nothing like a wall map you’d have seen in school. It’s made from dark, stained wood, for one. And, instead of longitude and latitude lines, roads and rivers, you have “hubs,” intersections of what look like curved planks of wood.
This piece represents communication; specifically, botanist John Bartram and the waves in which his information moved, from its research to his information becoming published. (This piece will also show in a botany-inspired art show in Philadelphia next year.) Each “hub” represents a geographic location — Philadelphia and London — from and to where the information traveled, and the planks themselves represent the journey.
She uses bent lamination, a process of taking thin, flexible pieces of wood and gluing them together to make a molded shape.
“It’s not intended to be a map that you’d use in your car to navigate, but one that talks about the way communication travels from and among groups of people,” she said.
She’ll also show a hall table and vanity at the Concord show, which share some of the same curvature elements as her wall map.
“There’s something exciting to me to create a curve that’s very thin, lightweight and very strong,” she said.
Woods currently works at the University of New Hampshire in the wooodworking program.
Beer says that muscle cars and cosmetics have a lot in common — or at least they do in the pieces that she’ll show in Concord next week. Two of the pieces, drawn from a collection she calls “Anchored Candy,” have an autobody, high-heeled shoe look, with colors that would look good on a hot rod or as a lipstick.
“An amazing lipstick color is a beautiful thing. A muscle car painted a deep violet is a beautiful thing. But you also have this sensual experience when you’re using them: putting lipstick on lips, or being in that muscle car, having that engine rumbling beneath you,” she said.
That’s what she was going for when she made two of the three pieces she’ll show in Concord.
“They’re built like how a hot rod would be built, in the forming of the metal and in the finishes,” Beer said.
Their surfaces are “sensuous” and curvy, and the colors shimmer and shift between hot pink and red when you walk around them. One side is the “candy” side, the other side, the anchor, to which a big block of steel is bolted.
She loves combining these two, seemingly opposite ideas. She loves the range of uses that metal can have and what it represents.
“As someone who’s been a metal worker for years, what I love is that it can perform as this architectural item. It’s very straightforward, strong, not necessarily something someone would think of as light or beautiful,” she said.
Szymanski has two pieces of furniture that will show at the gallery. One is a cabinet, or rather, a series of small boxes that make up a big piece, Szymanski said. The boxes have spring hinges on the bottom, and the cabinet box handles feature cords 10 to 12 feet long that drop to the floor.
The other is a TV stand. Szymanski describes it as a white, minimal, simple design, with two door panels and fingerprint shapes stamped on the doors.
“I’m a minimalist. I like really simple forms, and I like to combine natural wood with painted wood. I like to do a lot of carving and shaping. The forms are kind of organic, but simple at the same time,” she said.
She said that combining painted and unpainted wood highlights the natural wood a little more; painting it forces your eye to focus on the form of the grain of the wood.
“I hope that people appreciate some of the subtle details. My work isn’t highly technical; it doesn’t hit you over the head with a lot of fancy joinery or a lot of ornateness,” she said.