The Power of Furniture

BY THOMAS AGUILAR

The sound of footsteps and chatter coming from the top of the staircase is apparent. The first image that appears when firm-footing returns gives reason to all the excitement. A bright blue chest sits sliced in half diagonally. Remnants of earthy and contrastingly bright colored clothing seep out of the broken drawers, acting as the guts of the once beautiful dresser. This introductory piece, created by artist Liz Shepherd, acts as the foundation of what can be seen at the Interior Effects exhibit curated by Lisa Crossman.

Interior Effects: Furniture in Contemporary Art is an exhibit at the Fitchburg Museum of Art running from September 23rd through January 13th.  The exhibit is meant to connect New England’s industrial heritage to a more contemporary art practice by means of using furniture and the spaces we live in to connect on a deeper and more thought provoking level. This exhibit includes pieces created by ten New England based artists whose work consists of similar themes and elements. The pieces on display largely revolve around furniture, however not in the traditional sense. Jim Foritano from Artscope Magazine appreciated the art for being “conceptual as well as concrete.” Each observer may have a different interpretation and meaning for each piece.

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Dr. Robert Carr, an attendee at the opening of Interior Effects, was blown away by the intricacies of the work. He found that it was “beautiful and striking, but also revealing of how furniture effects our lives.” Carr found that the artwork shown was curated wonderfully, as every piece connects to the others thematically. The close examination of a series of five pictures left Dr. Carr in awe. These images made up the works The Appointment and The Call, by Sandra Erbacher, and have poems posted on the side of each image. This creates a sort of loose narrative that serves as both provocative of the work itself and indicative of the whole exhibit.

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Along with these poems and framed images, Erbacher included a video that was projected in a dark room. This video consists of still images ranging from office buildings to images of the Nazi regime. The comparison of these sorts of images was meant to point out the “shared characteristics” of each setting. Carr found this to be a bold and intense version of the more-subtle work that Erbacher and many other artists have on display.

Returning to the now slightly less crowded main hall, several centerpieces of the event were on display. Among them, spread across an entire wall, is a large piece consisting of what seem to be chairs and couches suspended from the ceiling. These chairs are all different vibrant shades of red, yellow, blue and green. This is one of the many pieces artist Liz Shepherd has on display. This work was partially inspired by the mass-production of furniture and its importance in New England, however there is more to the piece. Shepard made a statement saying, “I am particularly interested in imagery that springs from the unconscious mind…my interest…is storytelling.”

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With her work Shephard tells the story of her life. Without coming out and telling the story directly, she displays it through her art. The blue chest, cut in half, at the top of the stairs is another work of hers. Jim Foritano of Artscope Magazine referred to the cut through the chest as “brutal” and “provocative.” Curator Lisa Crossman pointed out that this work, Untitled (blue), was inspired by a surgery. Although the specific details of this surgery were not stated, it comes across that it was not a pleasant experience. Liz Shephard thinks of furniture as being “anthropomorphic” and “based on who we are,” through this mindset, the chest of clothes can be looked at through a different lens.

The pieces on display at the Interior Effects exhibit are amazing in both their display and meaning. Jim Foritano praises the FMA’s curation of works stating that “some of it was beautifully crafted and others were beautifully provocative.” Attendees at the opening were fully engaged in examining and discussing the works on display and the power they contained. On the surface, furniture may seem like a boring topic for art; however, the collection of work here proves otherwise. The relationship that we have with furniture and that furniture has with our lives is one that isn’t often thought of, which is why it is so great that artists like Liz Shepherd and Sandra Erbacher make statements with their art. The work of these and many more unique and creative artists can be seen at the Interior Effects: Furniture in Contemporary Art exhibit at the Fitchburg Art Museum for a limited time. It is well worth the price of admission.