Please sit…CCA star student Michele Marti talks about rejuvinating Victorian chairs by spreading their legs and getting very naughty… “Family Tree” at Petaluma Arts Center through March 13, 2011
I was so impressed with the great design in the student component of Family Tree, the woodworking show at the Petaluma Art Center, that I followed-up with Michele Marti whose rebuilt Victorian chairs stand out with their distinctive shapes, sumptuous fabric and sensual vibe. It is rumored that the prudish Victorians were so uptight that they didn’t even use the word “leg” because it was too risqué, so Marti’s interest in giving these staid chairs a new life and a rebellious new voice was all the more intriguing. Marti, 25, is from South Florida and is in her final year in the Furniture Program at California College of the Arts (CCA). Two of her pieces are in the community gallery of the Petaluma Art Center through Sunday, March 13, 2011.
What inspired you to revisit the Victorian era with these innovative repurposing projects you undertake?
Michele Marti: I have always loved Victorian as well as Rococo style furniture but haven’t had the opportunity to work with the style until my senior year here at CCA. My CCA thesis explores sensuality and sexuality in and around furniture. Since Victorian and Rococo furniture are inherently stylized with masculinity and femininity, they are what inspired me most, and I wanted to really dive into the world of regeneration. Since I have begun, I have become so attached to the pieces of furniture that I am rejuvenating that every scratch, dent, and drilled hole tells me a story of what these pieces have endured throughout their lives. Because of this, the chairs become more and more like people and therefore I feel like I have to give them the opportunity to experience a new life of sensuality and sexuality. Furniture is a cradle for the body and this interaction between the body and furniture is central to my interest and intentions when sculpting ideations for a new work.
Tell us more about the two pieces that are in Family Tree at the Petaluma Arts Center.
Michele Marti: All of the pieces that I have made and am making have to do with my personal life in one way or another. I have been out of a relationship for almost 3 years and, due to that, these works have been realized. “Victorian Spread” was the first of the series. By cutting the table and chair straight down the middle, I have exposed the femininity of each and consciously exposed it to the world. This very well could be psychoanalyzed and be viewed as a way of exposing myself, my sexual frustrations, my vagina and all, to the world.
“The Curious Sofa” is quite a curious sofa. As the reconstruction of the chairs went along and with some hilarious “how do you… ?” testing, it was soon discovered that this was a serious chair meant for one thing, some serious flirting. In the end “The Curious Sofa” was tufted with its original greenish gold buttons and reupholstered in a charcoal grey velvet fabric in order to remain gender neutral and sensuous to the touch. There is this really incredible thing that happens between two people when sitting in this curious sofa and that is the touching that can barely be avoided between their knees. It’s a kind of uncomfortable,yet unexpected sensuous flirting that occurs and provokes your insides to want more.
What are you working on right now?
Michele Marti: Currently, I am working on a similar piece to “The Curious Sofa” except this one is more gender based. Man, woman sitting side by side with the arm of the masculine chair around the back of the feminine chair. It will also be an upholstered piece and can be seen May 7th at our CCA exhibition at the Mina Dresden Gallery San Francisco. I think it is going to be called “Lovers.” The feminine chair is turned inward towards the masculine chair which then forces the female sitter to put her leg(s) on the lap or over the knee of the male sitter.
(read more about Michele Marti and Family Tree in ARThound March 4, 2011)
Details: The Petaluma Arts Center is located at 230 Lakeville Street, at East Washington Street, in central Petaluma, 94952. Gallery hours: Thursday- Monday, noon to 4 pm. Phone: (707) 762-5600 or www.petalumaartscenter.org
March 13, 1-4pm, Closing Party & Film Preview: Come view the new documentary film, Woodsmith/The Life and Times of Arthur Espenet Carpenter and celebrate the closing of Family Tree, the wonderful exhibition of Northern Californian fine wood craft.