October 2010, Mississippi State Visual Arts Center Gallery
My theoretical work is research-based. Reading history, visits to house museums and pilgrimages to historic sites result in a built manifestation, a chair and room, a place. The work examines questions of economics, sensibility and cultural values by reinventing the material culture of the subject. The research provides the impetus for design decisions and offers a take on history, identity and values by embellishing the reality with design interventions.
At the time of this exhibition, my focus was on the collection of ephemera that resides at the Ulysses S. Grant Collection at Mississippi State University. For the collection’s reading room, I designed two upholstered pieces of furniture that illustrate Grant’s military movements through the Mississippi countryside during the Civil War. These pieces were on view courtesy of the Ulysses S. Grant Collection. My method of working through embroidery and upholstered furniture is part of a career-long exploration of the relationship between furniture and storytelling. For this exhibition, I developed a sitting room that depicts the meeting of Ulysses S. Grant’s widow, Julia Grant, and Jefferson Davis’ widow, Varina Davis, in New York City long after the Civil War. The stories on the furniture illustrate the journeys the two women each made through the war years. The Visual Arts Center exhibition also included drawings from the series Julia Grant’s Opera Shawl and All that it Suggests as well as earlier drawings and chairs from the Walker Evans series.
Photos by Caleb Crawford