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Volume 26, Number 4 — April 2019

Take A Tour of Sculpted Chairs at E&H College

"Red Letter" chair by Vivian Beer is one of many unique seating designs.

Art Talk & Reception: Meet the Artist

September 01, 2009

EMORY, VA — The moment visitors step into the small white foyer of The 1912 Gallery at Emory & Henry College, they are in the midst of "Vivian Beer: The Colorful Tide," a colorful, shimmering exhibition of contemporary sculpted chairs in metal craft and other media.

Immediately in front, resting in its steel support, is the graphic "Red Letter," the only chair in the show made of wood. Its iconic shape is reminiscent of childhood playground structures, and in the artist's own words, "A chair about balance and play just had to be red."

Before stepping forward to examine the fluid lines and surfaces of "Red Letter," a glance to the viewer's left reveals only part of an 11-foot structure supported by narrow curvilinear legs that sparkle in midnight blue automotive paint. To view the top of this piece that stretches to within a foot of the gallery's ceiling, the viewer must take a few steps toward "Sensation" to appreciate its weightiness and proportions. This first piece in Beer's "Floating Series" and made of steel, "Sensation" sails and leaps through the air like a dolphin, even though it looms over us, quiet and still.

Beer brings to her art a mixture of exquisite curved lines and spaces that prompt the viewer to imagine what it would be like to sit, lie down or rock on the various perfectly polished surfaces. And yet she bends, cuts, files, grinds and welds these pieces out of steel and into a calligraphy of her own artistic language. The fact that Beer has chosen steel as her medium speaks to her toughness and skill as a hands-on blacksmith and welder and to her vision of creating strength and beauty out of a seemingly unmalleable material.

The remaining pieces in the exhibit are no less provocative than the two already described. "Winded Orange" and "Ruffle Lounge" are minimal designs that invite relaxation far away from the restraints of the clutter that litters our lives. The sky blue "Current" takes us away to outdoor summer vistas of mountains and water. In "Slither. Walk. Fly." Beer once again reveals her sense of humor and surprises us with a piece that is at once menacing and creature-like. Its sharp tentacles are beautifully expressive but threatening. And yet as its linear structure morphs into a chair of sorts, we humans suddenly know how to relate again.

Currently the owner-operator of Vivian Beer Studio Works in Asheville, N.C., Beer earned her Bachelor of Fine Arts in sculpture from the Maine College of Art in Portland and her Master of Fine Arts in metalsmithing from Cranbrook Academy of Art, Bloomfield Hill, Mich. She honed her blacksmithing and fabricating skills in industry with a two-year stint at Fine Architectural Metalsmiths in N.Y. and very recently completed a three-year tenure as a resident artist at Penland School of Craft in N.C.

View a slide show of the exhibit.


The artist, Vivian Beer, will speak about her work during an Art Talk at 7:30 p.m. Monday, Sept. 14, 2009, in the Board of Visitors Lounge of Van Dyke Center. The 1912 Gallery will open at 6:30 p.m. for viewing and after the Artalk for a reception with the artist. The exhibition will be on view through Sept. 26, 2009.

A! ExtraTopics: Art, Exhibits