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MIT Visual Arts Center: America Starts Here

By Christine M. Liu, Contributor, decor8

As a student of the media lab at MIT, I literally spend each day sitting on a goldmine. And that, dear friends, is the List Visual Arts Center, a gallery for contemporary art lovingly curated by Bill Arning, directed by Jane Farver, and coordinated by Hiroko Kikuchi. The List is located on campus, in the Weisner building E-15; if you’re in the vicinity you should stop by for the current exhibition America Starts Here, works by Kate Ericson and Mel Zeigler.

MIT Media Lab, Wiesner Building, Cambridge, MA

No one can describe their work better than Bill; however, I can introduce Zeigler and Ericson as a duo who focus on public works, giving new interpretations of everyday life, public space, history and memory, home and family, and the human experience. The works mostly approach the idea of american identity through domestic media like paint, glass, and construction materials. the house as home focus establishes the psychological space of safety, comfort, and ritual.

A favorite piece of mine incorporates a full set of china dinnerware that is elegantly decorated with gold flourishes and script letters. Only when you look closely do you realise that it’s not your typical fancy plating; the gilt words on the Dutch china spell out the names of industrial compounds from the central chemical factory in the origin town. It’s an amusing cognitive tingle, to imagine resting your dessert fork on the tetrachloronickelate lettered rim…

Camouflagued History, 1999

The strikingly painted house (the cover work for the exhibit) was produced in response to reinterpreting the colors defined by the neighborhood council to be acceptable for residences. The artists, in conjunction with the owner of the house, painted the exterior of the house with a camouflage pattern (a real design commissioned from the U.S. Army) composed from all the permissible colourings. The official names of the shades were printed as well, their descriptive names shedding a subtle dimension of the neighborhood and the intrinsic history embodied within.

The partnership of these two artists as lovers and as producers permeates the pieces with emotion and strength. An additional dimension to the exhibition is the fact that sadly, Ericson suffered from a brain tumor and passed away in 2005 (with Ziegler still alive today), giving a sense of her spirit finding new life in the exhibition of their work. More works from the exhibition:

Hollow Oak Our Palace Is, 1989

America Starts Here, 1988

I had a bit of a challenge finding some of their works documented online, though here is an feature that I found on one of their objects, Sift Before Measuring. Inside a dry sink, they placed numerous jars, each filled with flour and etched with the names of traditional american cake recipes.

And don’t forget the small room adjacent to the main gallery, which features an extensive slide presentation of more of their public works and performances. There’s even a picture of them dining on the Dutch dinnerware! :)

[photos above from LVAC]

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Graham + Brown

Individually hand painted acrylic on canvas starting at $25 can be yours at Graham & Brown. Offering an extensive range of art from artists and designers, along with thier own in-house design studio, they churn out a range of unique canvases that will add that extra pizzazz to your space. It is possible to have a creative decor on a budget. It may not be by-way-of [insert fine art gallery here], but budget shoppers need not sacrifice stylish interiors!

They also offer one-of-a-kind wallpaper that you can paint yourself (must see the Wood and Taylor ‘frames’ wallpaper), Lovely Hemingway and whimsical Kate Larsen wallpaper, $25 ceiling medallions, and nature-inspired digital murals that are oh-so-realistic!

(images are all from Graham + Brown)

Posted in Arts + Crafts, walls on February 28, 2006

Annike Laigo

By Christine M. Liu, Guest Writer, decor8

I got note of this lovely estonian artist, Annike Laigo, from one of my regular reads: the completely addictive and girlgeekily cute Popgadget blog, personal tech for women. (it’s in my nature to fall for any design blog that highlights japanese robots, food technologies, and pink cellphones…)

I was immediately attracted to the image of the glowing carpet concept because my studies at MIT involve textiles, fashion, and technology. The rug seems like a treat for the eyes as well as the toes! It seems like a concept in progress, though I imagine that it’s made by either coating some of the fibres with highly luminescent coatings (like a very efficient glow-in-the-dark compound), or weaving small bits of electroluminescent panels within the piles.
I fell in love with the furniture pieces featured on her website. They seem very sensual and highly form-based, yet domestically tongue-in-cheek and a wee bit subversive. Some highlights:

The handtufted wool 3D stripe wavy carpet wins my heart, especially juxtaposed with the starck-esque martini chair. The colors are so vibrant, and it makes me want to smile and imagine the *tuft, tuft*.

A wool felt wall hanging/room divider is given the moniker ‘spy’, with visible peekage through petaled cut-outs. Is it not tempting to run forth and put your eye up close, curious on what you’d see on the other side?
‘Oh! This is me!’ is a black felt rug, emblazoned with 3000 rivets in a folk-art pattern. This design is so lovely and evocative!
One way to create a zen environment in your home is to artfully place the ‘kivi pebble’ furniture in your environment. (indoor sand optional.) I love these pieces, they delight me in the same way as candy that look like river stones. The utility of rocks know no bounds…
Not only does Annike (photo below) have adorable glasses, she produces amazing work. Hope we’ll be seeing more of her soon! (and discovering the secret of her glistening carpets…)
[photos above from designboom and annikelaigo]

Posted in Arts + Crafts, guest bloggers on February 27, 2006

Denyse Schmidt: Quilts, Books + Stationary, Oh My!

By Christine M. Liu, Guest Writer, decor8

As one of the millions dabbling in the vast creative depths of DIY culture, I have seen things like knitting, crocheting, and felt appliques shed their old-fashioned status and become the next new hip. iPod cozies are the new tea cozies, and grandmothers meet glampunkers at modern craft fairs.

One craft that has shied from the limelight a bit is quilting.

At least for me, quilting seems still relatively entrenched in the German Dutch tradition and midwestern generational home-making. Yesterday, my roommate (in true presidential holiday spirit) was cruising daytime TV and became engrossed in a very old-skool ‘America Sews‘ crafting show on PBS. Though it was an interesting (if not somewhat unpalatable) fragment of American culture, it completely reinforced the traditional, old-fashioned quilting scene.

That’s why I’m spectacularly impressed by Denyse Schmidt’s quilts, which are fresh, modern, and a long way from the tacky, fussy quilts that might come to mind. Quilting meets couture: the bright colors and geometric lines are paired with soft textiles and comforting construction. Denyse is a RISD alum and does a fabulous job of tradition reinterpretation.

I cant get enough of the deep colors and playful stitching!


Denyse has books published by Chronicle that teach basics and offer patterns for many quilting projects. More images here on Amazon.

She was commissioned to create a chain link coverlet for Crate and Barrel:
Also find some of her delightfully cute photo books and stationery in the dots + jots and what a bunch of squares series…

She’s such a talented designer, I can’t wait to try making one of her quilts someday! Her books are high up on my wishlist.

-Christine M. Liu

Posted in Arts + Crafts, guest bloggers, stationery on February 21, 2006

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