Two exhibitions celebrating the enduring popularity of the Adirondack style will open Saturday, February 14 in the Museum of Art.
Rustic Tomorrow is the result of a unique collaboration. The Adirondack Museum in Blue Mountain Lake, N.Y., invited six well-known modern and postmodern architects and designers, and six of the finest Adirondack rustic furniture makers to partner. They were asked to design and build a piece of furniture or decorative work honoring the history and tradition of Adirondack rustic but incorporating a new, modern aesthetic. The result of this innovative collaboration takes traditional rustic designs in a new direction while honoring traditional methods and materials.
Architect and designer Michael Graves, for example, was paired with Jason Henderson, a recent graduate of Rochester Institute of Technology. The work they created pushes the Adirondack style in a new direction and draws parallels to contemporary studio furniture. The Child's Desk designed by architect David Childs, whose current projects include the new 7 World Trade Center, and fabricated by artisan Wayne Ignatuk evokes the craftsmanship associated with the Arts and Crafts Movement.
Architect Thomas Cardone summed up the endeavor by saying, The thing that I find appealing about the Rustic Tomorrow project is what makes it so challenging. Trying to take a futuristic look at a tradition that has such a strong connection to its past. In our piece, I am trying to combine a traditional natural root base with bold simple shapes that hint at contemporary design.
Rustic Traditions epitomize the practices that inspired contemporary artists. Late 19th-century rustic furniture was made by hand in the region by local men who were guides, carpenters, and handymen primarily using parts of tree bark, twig, branch, burl, and log. At first, the furniture was temporary, crude, and used out of doors. After about 1880, it was built for interior use; creative expressions that copied the styles of sophisticated urban furniture as seen in the secretary desk made by Ernest Stowe. Modeled after a traditional form, it is ornamented with white birch bark and applied with yellow birch details. Stowe, from Upper Saranac Lake, was a skilled carpenter who lived in a small cabin and worked on numerous camps built at the turn of the 20th century.
Rustic Tomorrow and Rustic Traditions illustrate that the enduring fascination with rustic objects coincides with the continuing attraction to untouched natural places and the importance of wilderness in American thought and culture.
Rustic Tomorrow is organized by The Adirondack Museum, Blue Mountain Lake, New York.
Photographs by Richard Walker