Other Selections: Local Artists Respond to the Museum Collection

May 1 – July 18, 2015

“The Center for Art in Wood embarks on new terrain with its spring exhibition, a collaboration with young, local artists who work in diverse media – drawing, sculpture, printmaking, video, and photography – everything, in fact, except wood. The 19 Philadelphia-based artists have selected one or more pieces from the Permanent Collection to serve as a point of departure for new artwork, including animation, kinetic sculpture, book art, and large scale installations. In this exhibition and in other initiatives, the Center seeks to make the collection an engine for creative activity.”

The item I have chosen from the collection is a metal conical strainer that is missing its wooden pestle. As an item in The Center for Art In Wood’s permanent collection that is missing its wooden component, it begs the necessity to be made whole by creating the absent piece, in yet another medium. This object has no identified maker and its lack of authorship leads us to questions of ownership, authenticity, provenance and to the ubiquity of tools in our material culture. Through research into this object I have found it to be in the family of conical sieves known as a chinois or China cap, a reference to the conical Asian hats common in The pestle I have created is an abstracted version that is deeply seated in the word play of its family of tools. The chinois is a derivation of chinoiserie, French for “Chinese-esque” – a recurring theme in European artistic styles which reflect Chinese artistic influences. This term’s origin comes from the Chinese term 青花 –“qīng-huā,” literally meaning “blue flowers,” which describes the porcelain works that dominated the European markets from the 14th to 18th century. By alluding to the deep history of Chinese porcelains and the etymological origin of the tool, I am asking the viewer to see the mundane and ubiquitous aspects of material culture for what they are, talismans containing within them the accumulated knowledge of countless lives and cultures.