My partner and I wanted to convey a sense of pride, beauty, and remembrance, and to challenge ourselves by expressing a moment of reflection on a solid surface. At first, we thought that we had to be physically present in order to have ourselves connected to the piece. We soon realized that it would be more powerful to have an open, untouched bench. This was to emphasize the closeness we felt as strangers working as artists, and to invite the audience to share their space. We also chose to do a bench because they are public resting places, and there is a rich intimacy in the act of self-reflection, respiration, and relaxation that takes place within an individual on a bench, left open but not vulnerable.
I felt vulnerable during this project. I chose to embrace this vulnerability as a way to distinguish just what made me feel so vulnerable, and it was me missing myself. I proposed to Logan that the bench should be embellished in flowers and designs of our home state, but instead of having a traditional appearance, I suggested that we look at artwork that we identify with, and use that as the color palette and design and the flowers as the shapes.
I am from Pennsylvania, and I was heavily inspired by Pennsylvania-Dutch furniture that resides in homes and diners in the two towns I spent my childhood in. Logan is from Louisiana, and she felt a strong connection to the state’s magnolia flower.
In the early stages of the project, I was heavily inspired by Second Empire furniture. While notoriously uncomfortable, it is incredibly simple in design, and immaculately decorative. I decided the best way to convey the essence of Second Empire without creating an actual Second Empire chair would be to make flat, puff-less cushions. The design inspiration came from my trip to the Brooklyn Museum. There is a small section upstairs in which homes are made and decorated with furniture of the times and people who would have lived there. I was inspired by the weathered and water-worn appearance of the pillows New England home. I began the process of aging my pillows by coating the muslin in canvas colored paint, and saturating the medium with water to create a transparency. I then gel transferred the images of paintings cut into the shape of traditional flowers. To ensure an aged appearance, I removed the images by scratching off the paper surface, leaving a limited residue. I then painted over another coat of the mudded mixture of paint. I stuffed the pillows with sheets and old tee shirts to give a raised, but deflated, sat in, adored appearance. I did not want there to be life, rather a sense of life. The idea of something or someone missing.
The errors: Logan and I thought that the gel transfer of the masterworks in the shape of flowers would look great on the bench and reveal small aspects of ourselves. Unfortunately, the gel did not transfer, and we were left with paper tacked onto the bench. In addition to the limited decoration, the cushions were too small.
The solution: We decided to stain the bench to give it a more finished appearance, we also decided to scrap the idea of placing the flowers physically on the bench. I also decided to remake the cushions, this time having them much bigger. We also decided to dangle little tea bags under the bench, as tea is very common in our culture and in our every day routine. However, rather than leave the tea bags as they were, I decided to paint over them in a cobalt blue gouache and a light orange gouache–I did this after discovering our state colors both included blue and gold.
Ultimately, our bench came out as a much more modern, minimalist, and quaint way of asking and answering, “where is my home now?”