The Michener Art Museum, 138 S. Pine St. in Doylestown, is presenting Miriam Carpenter: Shaping the Ethereal – an exhibition showcasing sculpture, furniture, prints and drawings by woodworker, designer and artist Miriam Carpenter – through March 20.
In this exhibition, her first solo show at the Michener Art Museum, Carpenter explores the possibilities within materials as she seeks to create new forms and solve challenging design problems. Appearing deceptively simple at first glance, each of Carpenter’s pieces involve complex calculations and an intimate understanding of her chosen material.
“Miriam Carpenter’s work is strikingly beautiful and amazingly complex,” said Laura Igoe, Michener’s chief curator and curator of the exhibition. “She draws inspiration from the natural world and encourages viewers to be more attune to the beauty that surrounds us, from the smallest feather to the largest tree.”
A graduate of RISD, Carpenter developed her deep appreciation for materials during the seven years she designed furniture with Mira Nakashima, daughter of woodworker, architect and furniture maker George Nakashima (1905-1990). At George Nakashima Woodworkers studio in New Hope, Carpenter learned to read the life of a tree through the knots, veins and rings of its wood.
Carpenter discovered that “each tree has its own experience and characteristics uniquely formed by its geographical location, the effects of the seasons, wind, rain and what grew beside it. The history of each year is physically recorded in each ring slowly racing to external and internal stresses after it has died and been cut into lumber. Reading this story in the grain is just as exciting to me as transforming it into an artifact.”
In 2012, she began carving small, intricate feathers, featured in the exhibition, that incorporate the wood’s grain pattern and structure into the object’s final design. These wood feathers are exceedingly thin and finely detailed. To Carpenter, they symbolize “that which is ethereal…a testament to the resilience of nature.”
On Nov. 11, at 6 p.m. Michener Art Museum will host a Women in Craft Panel Discussion, bringing together women experts and expert practitioners in contemporary woodworking. Moderated by Emily Zilber, director of curatorial affairs and strategic partnerships at the Wharton Esherick Museum, panelists include Mira Nakashima, president and creative director of George Nakashima Woodworkers; Miriam Carpenter, artist and designer; and Jennifer-Navva Milliken, artistic director of the Center for Art in Wood.
The Michener Art Museum is open Thursday, 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.; Friday-Saturday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; and Sunday, noon to 5 p.m. Visit MichenerArtMuseum.org or call 215-340-9800 for more information.