Ever since we featured Washington D.C. born artist Alexa Meade in a Matter Observed post last year, we’ve been wistfully anticipating her next project. Well, the waiting is over. Alexa’s new work is a collaboration with LA-based actor and performance artist, Sheila Vand. Meade uses her signature brush-strokes-on-body technique, only this time using milk as her backdrop to “explore the fluidity of form in relation to time and space.” According to her artist statement, she explains that “by stripping the subject of depth and dimension, a displacement of identity ensues, demonstrating the power of context over content.” Here’s a behind the scenes glimpse at Meade’s enticing new project:
Sheila Vand explains, ”our process is a constant dialogue between destruction and creation so the symbolism of milk, a reproductive substance, is an integral component.” Alexa Meade adds, “if the lines that we use to define the contours of our identities are constantly shifting shape, then we want to redraw those lines in a way that exposes the masks we wear for what they are – an illusion.”
Chicago Home+Garden‘s third annual “Chairs for Charity” was held at Consentino‘s beautiful West Loop showroom on Wednesday night. The evening was a resounding success with proceeds benefiting Design Industries Foundation Fighting AIDS (DIFFA). Matter & Order has been a huge fan of this event ever since being a part of the inaugural Chairs for Charity back in 2010. Some of Chicago’s leading designers and artists took inspiration from all sorts of places and transformed existing chairs, usually in disrepair, into showstopping, interior design centerpieces. Check out this year’s designs below:
Designer’s Statement: “Jillian O’Neill has a passion for designing furniture and Francine Turk was inspired to paint roses after stumbling upon an amazing rose garden while on a trip with O’Neill in Charlotte, NC.”
Designer’s Statement: “Vintage 1970s chair revamped into classic contemporary. I wanted to take the great bones of this chair, polish up the frame, and revamp the upholstery with textures that make it warm, touchable, yet clean in appearance to complement and interior. It is quiet and elegant with classic contemporary styling. I selected a gorgeous ash-colored leather, with mohair in a silvery gray on the seat and a frost tone on the back to contrast with the bright polished chrome frame.”
Designer’s Statement: “Gathered Together was inspired by the resurgence of the industrial found objects movement that’s recently gained a lot of momentum. The initial exhilaration of finding a one-of-a-kind item on a treasure hunt is short-lived when we later discover that the piece has simply gathered dust in a drawer or otherwise dimly lit chamber. When gathered together, these items create a magnificent way to revisit the past – while managing the point towards the future.”
Designer’s Statement: “This chair was particularly beat up when I found it. It had been reupholstered countless times in the past century, then left under a porch for the last 20 years. After removing the nearly 100 rusty tacks, it took a little care to re-glue the mortise and tenon joinery, and a lot of elbow grease to clean up the mahogany frame. The only part I rebuilt was the chair seat, from reclaimed mahogany flooring. I often use belts to reupholster furniture, and feel the bring so much color and texture to the piece. I especially love that you can still see all of the ear and tack holes from previous upholstery. Perhaps in a few decades someone else will come along and ind another creative way to modify this chair.”
Designer’s Statement: “The classic library chair and especially the armchair are well designed and comfortable. I wanted to create a more angular, modern juxtaposition to the curves of the original and add of bit of whimsy with the brushed aluminum and oriental feel.”
Designer’s Statement: “In thinking about what a chair is, its meaning and usage, I thought about chairs that have reference to place and events. This chair was originally in a monastery library. Made of thick walnut with very utilitarian design, it just feels solid; it spoke to me about integrity. When I made this chair, I was thinking about a day of grave violence in our city, and the plastic rods represent shots – with every gun shot, integrity is sacrificed.”
Designer’s Statement: “This once-proud chair lost its pizzazz; worn, torn, and dirty, but what wonderful bones it possessed. Max was in need of a contemporary update with fabrics, paint, and a plethora of nail heads. He shines once again.”
Designer’s Statement: “Furniture is sculpture to me. And as much as I love to engineer a good chair, sometimes I’d rather just carve one out. Using only reclaimed or leftover materials made this project that much more rewarding. Only the LEDs in this chair were purchased new.”
Designer’s Statement: “Rather than create something out of a whole cloth, the goal is to transform the mundane, to take a pedestrian object that we regularly encounter but rarely notice. To see something with fresh eyes and imagine the possibilities. That, and a racing stripe.”
Designer’s Statement: “The light color of this chair reminded me of the hone-colored wooden vigas and furniture of Santa Fe. Its simple, strong lines provided the perfect backdrop for the bold, bright woven colors and pattern of the blanket. I loved marrying the distinctly European form of the chair with the ethnic feel of the upholstery.”
Designer’s Statement: “The muse for Intern Gilly was our summer intern – a modern classic with an unconventional streak. A juxtoposition of clean lines and funky upholstery (with exposed seams) hints at the fact that you never know what to expect from this gal. Oh, Gilly, behave!”
Designer’s Statement: “These chairs had been left for dead at my upholsterer’s – stripped of fabric, but with these great bones. I envisioned them as sexy French parlor chairs. The smoky purple velvet has a seductive feel, and the hand-blocked and embroidered fabric from Seema Krish adds a hint of the exotic.”
Designer’s Statement: “I had always wanted to incorporate Tony’s (Fitzpatrick) work into a piece of furniture. The reproduction of the drawing collage ‘Desire’ as a cushion seemed to be a warm and sensuous use of this lovely work of art.”
A special “thank you” to my friend Vanessa for these lovely photos of the event!
When I was invited by KCADC to cover Kansas City Design Week 2012 for Inhabitat, I must admit, I knew very little about the city and its culture. I have some friends who had spent some time here, and have talked about how great a town it is; but beyond these casual mentions of KC, and my amateurish knowledge of its Jazz and BBQ roots (thanks to Ken Burns and Anthony Bourdain, respectively), I had no discernible notions about the city and its people. So once this opportunity came my way I was beyond excited and ready to take-in all that Kansas City had to offer. In between attending Design Week events and happenings, I was able to explore and photograph a small sampling of what makes Kansas City so incredibly unique.
Yesteryear’s heart of Kansas City industry and culture, the beautifully haunting, mostly deserted West Bottoms corridor – currently in the infant stages of a renaissance:
First Fridays is a monthly event in the Crossroads Arts District where thousands congregate to gallery hop, listen to live music, and eat and drink locally from food trucks and street vendors. Basically, it’s one big, happy party:
According to Anthony Bourdain, Oklahoma Joe’s is one of the 13 places you should eat at before you die. I waited in a line that wrapped around the outside of the building (it’s inside a gas station, mind you) for an hour and fifteen minutes, spent $12, and was finished eating in just under 10 minutes… and I’d do it all over again. Yes, it was that good:
I was fortunate enough to get a private tour (in Darryl Hawkins‘ sporty convertible) of some of Kansas City’s most sustainable residential architecture:
And of course I would be remiss if I did not tour the Boulevard Brewery, aka, Craft Beer Heaven:
At the end of my short visit, I felt like I saw so much of what defines Kansas City – but I know there’s so much more to it than that. The people here are proud, hard-working, and have a Midwest warmth about them that is unique to Kansas City. Everyone I met went out of their way to help me and teach me about their home town. The arts and culture here is vibrant and flourishing, with museums, art schools, theater, great restaurants, and incredible live music every night of the week. If Chicago is the quintessential American City, this Paris of the Plains known as Kansas City is its younger brother. Just over an eight our drive (or eight hours by train) from Chicago, it’s a trip you should seriously consider making if you’ve never been. I’m certain you’ll be pleasantly surprised and, like me, leave wanting more.
Barry Phipps has been working as an artist since his days at the Kansas City Art Institute where he toured with the experimental band, Mudhead, and along with Archer Prewitt (The Sea and Cake) and two other KCAI students (Mark Greenberg and John Upchurch), co-founded the influential avant garde group, the Coctails. Between 1988 and 1995, the foursome recorded and toured the United States and abroad, playing music and making posters, t-shirts, buttons, dolls, and other hand-made merchandise to promote the band’s concept and identity. After the Coctails disbanded to individually focus on other creative pursuits, Barry started the Tight Ship record label where he has produced and recorded music at his North Branch Recording Studio in Chicago for both established and aspiring musicians alike. He also founded Beep Media, Inc., a collective of talented, young DJ’s spinning sounds from a meticulously curated library of music for weddings and special events.
In 2005, Barry and the Coctails regrouped to support the Pixies on their reunion tour before setting out on a reunion tour of their own in Japan where they have a cult-like following. In 2007, Barry delved back into fine-art with a gusto, starting his eponymous photography business, Barry Phipps Photography. Since its inception, he has traveled all over the United States and overseas (including Sweden, Italy, and most recently France) capturing the most delicate and precious moments in a way that more resembles a Henri Cartier-Bresson or Vivian Maier print than your stereotypical wedding album photograph. From his deliberate technique, to the equipment he uses, this “fine art” approach has garnered him a standard-setting reputation in the event and wedding photography industry, with many now following suit.
This short documentary merely scratches the surface of Barry Phipps’ story as a photographer, musician, and multimedia artist. To learn more about Barry, follow the links below.
Cruising down the proud highway, I65, toward the Blue Grass State, windows down and the radio just above the volume of the air rushing in, I thought of the place that I quixotically built up in my mind over the years, constructed mostly from stories I’ve heard and the occasional TV spot while watching the “two most exciting minutes in sports.” To me, Kentucky was a virtual utopia of hillside whiskey distilleries and perfect fence-lined meadows with rocky streams cutting through both, and of course there were horses. Lots and lots of horses.
So as we finally drove over the Ohio River into this once imaginary, now all of a sudden very real state, I was delighted to see that there was much more going on here than advertised – from Louisville’s interesting architecture, both old and new, and its rich arts and culture scene; to Lexington’s Victoria Square and the University of Kentucky College of Design’s iconic Pence Hall (a proposal is on the table for an addition by none other than Studio Gang Architects of Aqua fame); to the Shaker Village of Pleasant Hill, with its stunningly simple hand crafted furniture and sinuous, poetic stair cases. Kentucky, just a little over a five hour drive from Chicago, is an absolute must observe and an ideal 3-4 day weekend getaway with something for just about everyone.
Oh yeah, and that utopian place with the horses and the meadows and the bourbon? That part is every bit as true and beautiful in person as it was in my imagination all those years.
From Louisville’s native son:
“Life should not be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside in a cloud of smoke, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming “Wow! What a Ride!”
Never in my wildest imagination would I have envisioned the planning of my first trip to Italy going something like this:
Saturday, 10:45pm – Contacted by the managing editor for Inhabitat to cover the biggest design tradeshow in the world that starts on Tuesday morning in Milan.
Saturday, 11pm through Sunday, 5:35pm – Deliberate and figure out how I could pull off this last minute avventura.
Sunday, 5:40pm – A decision is made and I buy my plane ticket.
5:41pm – Contact clients and apologetically reschedule meetings for the following week.
6pm – A quick trip to Best Buy and Target for last minute supplies.
8:20pm – Receive confirmation (thank Jah) about where I will be sleeping in Milan.
Monday, 11:45am – I’m on the Blue Line to O’Hare, nervous and excited as hell.
And that’s pretty much how it went down. But the truth is, I had wanted to go to Milan’s Salone del Internazionale Mobile, the world’s most preeminent international furniture fair, ever since learning about it back in 2006 while studying design and working at Luminaire; and, I had ALWAYS wanted to go to Lo Stivale, the beautiful country, Italy. After receiving a sign in the form of a finger written message on my dusty computer screen that simply said “go” as I powered down late Saturday evening, and with my wife’s blessing, I knew what I had to do – and so I went.
After a long, overnight flight with a layover in Paris, a 40 minute train from Milano Malpensa Airport to downtown Milan, a 30 minute subway trek out to Rho (where the expo was), and then a 15 minute bus ride from Rho to Cornaredo, I finally arrived at the apartment which I would call home for the next five nights. My host, Ombretta, could not have been more accommodating, or nicer, and she promptly set me up in my spacious room which was everything I could’ve asked for, and then some (see the last photo below for the “and then some” – the view from my balcony).
Now, despite the work-like nature of the trip, I didn’t intend on flying half-way across the world to visit such an amazing city and not venture out at least one day to observe some of the sights, and try to capture on film the essence of Milan during the week of the Salone. From the graffiti tagged facades to the overwhelming beauty and presence that is the Duomo, Milan is a city brimming with a combination of history, color, style and personality unlike any other I’ve ever seen, and there is no doubt I will be returning in the near future – only next time with my wife alongside me and a little less rushed, I hope.
To justly use the word incredible when describing a piece of art, it should be so profound that it forces you to close your eyes, clearing the cornea of any possible film or residue, then quickly opening them again, wider this time, in hopes to fully believe what lies before you. The work of Alexa Meade, a 24 year-old artist from Washington D.C., does just that. She has developed an approach to portraiture that involves applying acrylic paint directly onto her subjects in a style that optically compresses 3D space into a 2D plane. The project is a fusion of painting, performance, photography, and installation. Meade’s fascination with how the sun casts moving shadows was her original source of inspiration. Matter Observed hopes to one day observe this young, talented artist’s truly incredible work in person.
Alexa Meade’s artwork has been featured in The Washington Post, The London Telegraph, CNN, The Today Show, Al Jazeera, Nippon Television, NY Arts Magazine, Art Daily, Juxtapoz Magazine, and Italian Elle Magazine. Alexa Meade is represented by Irvine Contemporary in Washington, DC. Her art has been exhibited at Postmasters Gallery in New York City and at the Saatchi Gallery in London.
For pricing information on limited edition prints and commissioned portraits, contact Lauren Gentile, Gallery Director of Irvine Contemporary at firstname.lastname@example.org or (202) 332-8767.
The illustrations of Seattle-based artist Toby Liebowitz precipitates a remembrance of things past, including childhood wonderment and discovery, and the delicate and tumultuous time when innocence is lost – but it’s also been subject to the commonplace, ordinary, workaday life. Most recently, Liebowitz illustrated the cover for Fleet Foxes‘ soon to be released second album, Helplessness Blues (pictured above). Listen to the album’s title track by pressing the play button above.
The following drawings are from the series entitled, Peg and Awl, where Liebowitz tells a visually rich story of a depression-era utopian people.
About Peg and Awl:
Peg and Awl is a fictional society based in Douglas County, Oregon between the spring of 1933 and the winter of 1934. A community built from the dreams of the great depression; a place for artists, carpenters, writers and adventurers with visions of a utopian society. Through a series of graphite drawings, that span the seasons of a year, we witness the rise and fall of a community of people who are forced to face the realities of human desire and the harsh unknown.
The name of the community “Peg and Awl” comes from the song of the same title, popular during the industrial revolution of the late 1800s in America. The song prophecies the demise of handcrafts in favor of the machine. This fictional Peg and Awl society, created by Leibowitz, largely based on handcrafts, is an ode to the simplicity and creative spirit in our past, present, and potentially our future communities.
Artist Statement about the installation:
“Early in the 20th century hundreds of small sustainable communities were popping up around America. One of the most common ideas was the notion of free land and the liberation to builds ones shelter however and wherever they pleased. It was always with what they had and just the amount of space that was needed. The installation is trying to reenact a space of handmade and time spent shelter. Inside the shelter a sound piece is looped. Taking fragments of human life, a baby first laugh, and fragments of sound clips appropriate to 1933, clips of FDR’s fireside chats. The sound piece will aurally express the arc of the society “Peg and Awl” through the seasons and cyclical nature of patterns in human nature and the repeating of history past.”
The smell and sound of a good wood shop is about as comforting to a furniture devotee as freshly mowed Wrigley Field grass and organ music is to a Cubs fan. The rich aroma of cut hardwoods permeate the air, sun beams illuminate a suspended universe of slowly moving particle dust, while a bevel edge chisel and table saw provide the verdant soundtrack. Just like Wrigley, it is a living, breathing time capsule – and this is exactly the scene Matter Observed walked into when we visited Chicago-based furniture maker, Jason Lewis, at his West Town laboratory of lumber. We caught up with Jason to get his thoughts on design, learn a little bit about his working process, and discover what’s on the horizon for this talented, up-and-coming furniture designer.
Matter Observed: Jason, first tell us a little about your background and how you got into furniture design.
Jason: I sort of got into building furniture before I got into designing furniture. In 2000 I found out about this local place that was basically a functioning custom furniture shop combined with a woodworking school. The guy took on apprentices to work for free and just learn by immersion in this environment. I had been looking for something like that to do, and ultimately I went and worked there for about a year. That was my first exposure to traditional joinery and this kind of furniture construction. I had always sort of built things, but never on this level.
After that I put together my own shop and started doing whatever commissions I could get. So this was when I really started working on design – both the one-off custom type work but also my own designs. Basically between paying jobs I would just work on my own pieces and try to build as much as I could, experimenting with different things.
Matter Observed: Aesthetic remnants of Shaker furniture and mid-century Danish design can be seen in much of your work. Do you look at what you are doing with your furniture as an extension of these styles and their fundamental principals?
Jason: Definitely the Shakers and a lot of the mid-century stuff are both big influences. I think the basic purity and functionality of the designs, the proportions, the way the details of a piece elevate a simple shape. All of that I try to incorporate in my own work.
Being a woodworker, I respond to that tradition of craftsmanship and the link between design and construction. The Shakers had this pure sense of design but were also totally inventive, ingenious builders. And all those great Danish designers either built their own furniture or had close collaborations with master woodworkers or cabinetmakers (and later manufacturers), usually the same one for years and years.
Matter Observed: Is there anything else that informs your designs in the creative process? Take us through how a design goes from an idea in your head to the finished product.
Jason: It depends. Sometimes I get an idea for just one element of something – a certain way to make the arm of a chair or something, and that’s what I build the rest of the piece around. Other times I start with an idea for more of a whole piece – maybe a basic outline of a table or chair, a certain profile. I typically work the idea around in my head for a while and then try to do a drawing, or sometimes I just start making it and kind of adjust dimensions or angles as I go along.
Matter Observed: Last year a client of Matter & Order wanted a writing desk with storage that could also double as a small dining table, and after some collaboration you designed and built a simple but gorgeous black walnut table (above) with sculpted joints where the legs meet the surface. What other types of wood do you work with, and do you like to mix different woods into a single design?
Jason: With custom work I use a wider range of materials, but most often it’s domestic hardwoods – walnut, oak, ash, cherry. On my own designs I tend to use walnut the most as kind of a default, I love the look and it also happens to be a really nice material to work with. I do sometimes mix woods, but I try to be pretty subtle about it. I think a little contrast goes a long way.
Matter Observed: Where do you source your lumber and do you ever work with Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certified or sustainably harvested woods?
Jason: I source wood from a few different places around the area – some smaller sawmills that take local trees and mill them, and also some larger lumber dealers. I do work with sustainably harvested stuff wherever possible, and can always use it if requested. I have also done a number of projects with reclaimed lumber – wood that is salvaged from old barns or industrial buildings and can be cut down and reused.
Matter Observed: CB2 recently took one of your chair designs (above) and manufactured it in a brushed nickel-plated steel, calling it the Fleet Chair (below, $179 available at CB2). What was the process like working with the Chicago-based company in getting your design from wood into metal form? Is there a story behind the naming of the chair?
Jason: We started looking at some of my existing designs and trying to see if there was something that could be reworked so that it could be manufactured in metal at a manageable price. They can produce that chair in metal a lot cheaper than wood, and the design lends itself to metal because you keep that visual lightness – the thin frame, the thin bent back – in a way you couldn’t in wood at that level of production. As far as coming up with a name, I happily deferred that to the creative folks at CB2.
Matter Observed: Well we love the name, and the chair sings modern elegance. It’s definitely one of our favorite new chair designs under $250, as recently reviewed in dwell.
Matter Observed: Describe your ideal client or ideal project.
Jason: Any client that is excited about the product and the process is ideal for me. I’m also on the lookout for eccentric billionaires who need furniture.
Matter Observed: That’s funny, because eccentric billionaires are on Matter & Order‘s radar for potential clients, too.
Matter Observed: So what’s your favorite chair or piece of furniture that you’ve designed? How about a favorite chair or piece of furniture that you did not design?
Jason: I don’t think I really have a favorite of my own, the upholstered rocking chair (above) has been my best selling piece and so I’ve had the most chances to make & refine it over the years. It’s also something I use every day at home, so it has a more personal connection.
As far as something by another designer, again it’s hard to pick a favorite. I think the first piece of furniture that really made me think about or be aware of design was an Eames bent plywood chair (an LCM) that was in my grandmother’s house when I was growing up. That is still definitely one that I look to as an inspiration.
Matter Observed: What are you working on these days that you are particularly excited about?
Jason: I’m working on some new stuff with CB2 that should be out later this year, including (hopefully) a piece that I’ll be producing here in the shop as well as designing. Also getting ready to start on some furniture pieces and a reception desk for an apartment building lobby – this really beautiful old hotel in Hyde Park that is being completely renovated with modern interiors.
Matter Observed: Lastly, Matter Observed would like to know the answers to the following:
Last author read: Alan Brinkley Last song heard: ‘Connecticut’ by Superchunk Last food consumed: A banana Last drink imbibed: A cup of coffee
Matter Observed: Jason, thank you for time.
Jason: Thank you, Nate.
Jason Lewis’ work is both familiar and striking: familiar in form, striking in its incredible craftsmanship and attention to detail – as if Fritz Hansen had a lovechild with Mother Ann Lee. Using joinery techniques developed centuries ago, his designs are modern yet timeless wooden sculptures that double as heirloom-quality furniture. For contact info and to see more of Jason’s work, visit his website at jasonlewisfurniture.com.
It is not too far-off an assumption that artists Ralph Lagoi and Kate Lace (a.k.a. Lagoi & Lace) could hail from Neith, the mythical moon of Venus, especially after getting a glimpse of their latest super charged, technicolor project, “Love Land Invaders.” The recent top grads from the Academy of Media Arts in Cologne take fashion, design, styling, and photography to a whole new pop-provocative level when they invade some of Japan’s sometimes stylish, sometimes over-the-top designed love hotel rooms in Osaka and Kansai. After a long and dreary February, Matter Observed instantly fell in love (land) with this duo’s use of material, color, and imagery in their slick, otherworldly photographs.
Lagoi & Lace designed and constructed the wardrobe consisting of masks, glasses, shields, armory, jewelry, customized clothes and ribbons. Once finished, the artists transformed into “Miss Takehito Quadruple”, “Mister Hyde Dobuita Speerträger”, “Mr. Seiuchi Sivuch”, “Shika Shika Chan” and “Miss Ayanami Oenshi”. According to their website, each of these characters “represents a certain aspect of beauty (the beauty of dark elegance, the beauty of a gentleman, the beauty of play, the beauty of wilderness, the beauty of pink).”
The “Love Land Invaders” express an idea Lagoi & Lace call luxurious pop. In this project, luxury can be found in the aesthetic quality of the design, for example by using glossy materials, sculptural shapes and vibrant colors. Luxury can also mean giving oneself the freedom to explore your desires and fantasies and creating fitting worlds. For Lagoi & Lace, pop describes the idea of bringing diverse inspirational sources into a fresh mix to create emotionally and visually strong images. The idea of luxurious pop was their guiding light while creating the “Love Land Invaders.”