ARThound

Geneva Anderson digs into art

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

Michele Marti's "Curious Sofa" is a gorgeous spoof on Victorian morays as well as furniture design. Two people sitting on this plushly upholstered seat are forced to touch knees, a very un-Victorian thing to do. Photo: courtesy Michele Marti

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.

The Victorian furniture pieces Michele Marti works with have seen a lot history---she rebuilds them and then painstakingly re-upholsters them and now these chairs sing a different tune. The Curious Sofa is on display at the Petaluma Arts Center through March, 13, 2011. Photo: Michele Marti.

 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 do enjoy about upholstery and what goes into your decision to select a specific look or fabric? 
 
Michele Marti:  “The Curious Sofa” was my first major upholstery project and I have fallen in love with the process.  I taught myself how to upholster, with tips here and there from Ashley Eriksmoen (also in Family Tree and a CCC instructor).  I begin by taking very detailed photographs as I deconstruct the pieces before they are rejuvenated and use these for reference when I come up with my new design.  It is a very labor intensive process that I had overlooked for years until I started upholstering myself.  There were times in September of last year where I couldn’t even grab the knob of a door because my hands hurt so much.  Though it is painful in the beginning, it is so satisfying to be able to be with a piece from beginning to end and see it though all of the steps and processes.   

Michele Marti's Victorian Spread has a very naughty idea behind it--she cut a Victorian chair and table right down the middle, exposing the feminity of each, and consciously revealed it to the world. Photo: Geneva Anderson

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.

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March 10, 2011 Posted by | Petaluma Arts Council | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment