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Clifton Monteith

The chairs in this exhibit range from rustic to constructivist in style. The artist Clifton Monteith, working in rural Lake Ann, Michigan, uses flexible switches of local green willow and aspen to weave nests of truly organic Art Nouveau, such as his Waiting for Sunrise and Getting Tall chairs. Other examples of Monteith’s extraordinary refinements of the bent willow tradition can be seen in the Renwick Gallery at the Smithsonian and at the Art Institute of Chicago. “The medium in which I work,” he says, “has certain limits set by the nature of the materials themselves…. The materials are only worked in their natural state, not asking them to make bends they are naturally incapable of doing by synthetic methods such as soaking, boiling, or steaming. Each plant species has organic characteristics that lend themselves to certain applications and being sensitive to these peculiarities is important to the work’s development.” Also exhibited is one of Monteith’s lanterns, which are not so much constructed as slowly and patiently accreted around armatures of found twigs, using the organic materials and techniques of the traditional Japanese crafts of washi (paper) Urushi lacquer, and a stiffening material called Kakishibu, made from fermented persimmons.

— From Glenn Gordon's essay, Sculpture Designed to be Used.

  • Clifton Monteith, Up, Down and Out
    Up, Down and Out, 1999-2007. Twigs, cloth, unryu, kakishibu. 38" H x 33" W x 12" D. Courtesy Becky Thatcher of Glenn Arbor, Michigan.