The Wharton Esherick Museum’s 25th Annual Woodworking Competition and Exhibition, The Art of the Stool, opened this month celebrating the beauty and potential of everyday objects. The exhibition includes the work of 18 woodworkers from across the country whose works draw inspiration from Esherick’s unique and inventive designs, encouraging artists to continue to reinvent the world around us.
Esherick’s iconic three-legged stools provided the inspiration for this year’s theme. Beginning in the 1950s, Esherick turned wood “scraps” from larger projects into the seats of stools. Responding to the wood grain before him, no two were exactly the same; each was a uniquely considered work of art. Juried by Miri Nakashima, Creative Director for Nakashima Woodworkers, Albert LeCoff, Executive Director Emeritus and Co-Founder of The Center for Art in Wood in Philadelphia, and Laura Heemer, Curator for the Wharton Esherick Museum, the exhibition celebrates the next generation of artistry, craftsmanship, and innovation in woodworking.
This year’s first place went to Julia Michalski from Newtown, PA for Stool Light, whose spiraling angles and hidden light source harken back to Esherick’s own explorations. This piece was also awarded the Members’ Choice Award which was voted on during the opening reception. Second place was awarded to Aled Lewis of Rockport, ME for his elegant Pi Stool, and third place went to David Ebner of Brookhaven, NY for Stick Stool. The Museum also awards a special prize for elementary, middle and high school students working in wood, the Horace Hartshaw Award, which this year went to Larry Bamburg and Lumber Club of Marfa, TX for their piece, Three Threaded Legged Stool. The Lumber Club includes elementary-age students Mae Bamburg, Willa Bamburg, Colette Fowlkes, Abby Scott, Grace Rothey, Sofia Rothey, Stella Shepard, and Mable Melgaard. The Art of the Stool also includes work by Jeremy Adams, Ron Cook, Kevin Costante, Danny Kamerath, Kieran Kinsella, Wayne Locke, Ryan Meacham, Ivar Raphael, John Sheridan, Ross Silverman, Bradford Smith, Brendan Yi-Fu Tay, Geoffrey Warner, and Mark Wedekind.
Always focused on expanding the expressive potential of the functional object, next year will bring with it a new theme and new opportunities for invention by artists working in wood. The Art of the Stool is on display in the Visitor Center now through December 30 and is free to the public. This does not include admission into the Museum for which advance reservations are required.