'The Invitational' Marries Furniture and Art in a Residential Gallery Setting

By amyb
In Culture

Fine handcrafted and thoughtfully designed furniture is truly an art form; so why not display it in a gallery show alongside visual art works? That was the idea behind “The Invitational,” a furniture and art show held in the spacious fourth-floor gallery space at The Syndicate Condominiums building on Olive in the heart of Downtown.

Photo courtesy of David Stine

Photo courtesy of David Stine

Two local furniture makers, David Stine Woodworking and Goebel & Co. Furniture, joined forces with local artists Chad M. Lawson, an abstract painter working in oil and acrylic, and fine art photographers The Land Sisters (Andrea Land and Sarah-Marie Land) to display their work at a weekend-long event. It kicked off with a well-attended Friday evening reception on June 10, featuring drinks and food donated by Schlafly and White Box Eatery in support of the artists, including a selection of cold Schlafly beer and a stimulating spread of bite-sized hors d’oeuvres like antipasti skewers, smoked salmon canapés, roasted beet canapés, and kale and white bean crostini.

The ample gallery space (donated by the building) included a main event room large enough to house an impressive display of furniture from both Stine and Goebel, flanked by two smaller, glass-walled galleries where attendees perused and contemplated the works by Lawson and The Land Sisters. A steady flow of guests milled and mingled, taking it all in and chatting up the artists about their work.

The idea for the event began with Stine and Lawson, who resides in the building across the hall from the galleries and displays his work there regularly. The two met through their mutual friend, Aaron Perlut, a partner at downtown marketing agency Elasticity. When Stine and his business partner/wife, Stephanie Abbajay, saw Lawson’s space, they immediately thought of having a collaborative show. They then reached out to Goebel and Land (with whom Stine had done a show previously) and invited them to join the party—partly inspiring the name “The Invitational.”

“It was a great balance of St. Louis art and craft—furniture, art, and photography,” says Abbajay. “Dave and I really adhere to the principal of ‘a rising tide lifts all boats,’ and we want to showcase not just our work, but the work of other artists as well.”

Furniture being so tactile, guests weren’t shy about running their fingers along the unique grain of Stine’s sustainably harvested tables, or testing the comfort of Goebel’s beautiful Hyde Chair of woven Danish chord. The “centerpiece” of the room was one of Stine’s signature communal tables made from a live-edge slab atop a handmade steel trapezoid base and an impressive 13-feet long.

Guests also admired the sampling of Lawson’s paintings, which included oil and acrylic on canvas, as well as oil and acrylic on paper on wood and directly on wood. According to Lawson, “The paintings presented are a reflection of sankofa—a teaching that embraces the going back, reclaiming, reaching to the root, in order to move.”

In the opposite gallery, The Land Sisters’ photo series, “Salaryman,” provided a compelling look at the businessman in contemporary Japanese society. The photos of a variety of these men posed in their business suits in the same Tokyo location reflected the values of their society.

“Closely observing the individuals, we sought to develop a better understanding of this systematic community of white-collar males; in particular, ideals and norms communicated via visual attire, gesture, and presentation,” says Sarah-Marie Land. “We create a balance between the actual and the observed while working in the mediums of color photography/analog photography with archival digital prints.”

In all, more than 200 art-lovers turned out for the weekend-long event.

“Our objective was to introduce our work and the work of our colleagues to a wider audience here in St. Louis, especially to the design communities,” says Abbajay. “Dave and I do shows all over the country, but we want to establish a show here in St. Louis that really highlights the work of high-end furniture craftsmen and artists in many mediums. And rather than wait to be juried in to the Saint Louis Art Fair or other event, we thought, heck, let’s just do it ourselves.”

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