Take a Seat!
The inaugural ‘Chairs for Charity’ auction event, presented by Empathy313, raised funds for dozens of local charities, thanks to these creative artists
The Photo Throne
The Photo Throne is a portrait chair, and everyone who sits in it becomes part of a masterpiece, says photographer Asia Hamilton of Detroit. Her goal? Mix traditional portraiture with the selfie craze. “The Mona Lisa, like the selfie, has been acclaimed as the best known and the most visited piece of art in the world,” Hamilton says. “Last year, consumers took more than one trillion digital photos of themselves. The selfie is a form of art even more shared than the Mona Lisa.” In an intriguing, juxtaposed approach to the phenomenon, pairing the two concepts was only natural, she says. “Instead of taking a selfie, why not get your Mona Lisa on your way out the door?” Texture photograph, framed over the chair,
by Asia Hamilton. asiahamilton.photography
The Biker's Throne
Désirée Kelly is a fine artist who predominantly works in oil and spray paint, creating portraits. Her most recognized pieces are images of historical figures wearing “kaleidoscope glasses,” such as “Abe in Shades” and “Picasso with Blue Shades.” Kelly says her inspiration for building this chair came from a business that she and her husband started a few years ago, the Surf and Turf Motor Shop, which sells vintage motorcycle and moped parts. Kelly thought it would be fun to collaborate with her husband in building this throne. The chair features leftover motor parts, and the back cushion was upholstered with canvas showcasing “Picasso with Blue Shades” — which Kelly says was a perfect choice, since Picasso’s son Paulo was a motorcycle racer. desireekellyart.com
Modern Industrial Lounger
The inspiration for this piece by Rob Tomlinson stems from the artist’s love for mid-century modern furniture, with its clean lines and minimalistic designs. In his Plymouth store, 28th and Chairs, he builds pieces that have a rustic-industrial, yet modern, feel. Tomlinson says he enjoys working with reclaimed woods, steel, and other recycled items. For this endeavor, his goal was to blend a modern design with vintage industrial grit. The construction was done by hand, including the bent steel and sloping plywood seat, and the design materials were chosen to give the chair a sleek and dramatic appearance that sparks conversation.
The chair as a piece of furniture dates back to antiquity, and it's often a symbol of a resting place. Many times, empty chairs have been used as the personification of the people who own them — or to symbolize those who are missing from a family gathering or special event. This chair confronts the juxtaposition of our society's relationship between rest and rush. The artist, Doug Schwartz, explains that the melted wax represents the idea of a place one can “sink into” for comfort and an escape from the busyness of life. He says the work aims to awaken themes related to our culture, and the realization that sometimes we should just take a seat. detroitwick.com
Artist Darcel Deneau has earned a reputation for her noteworthy Detroit urban works, which have been widely collected throughout the metro Detroit area and beyond. A Detroit native, her work reflects a positive vision of the city she loves. Deneau wanted the chair to echo the type of work she’s best known for, and to include some of the uplifting spirit and energy of her style of painting. She created a simple, yet functional design with flat surfaces to provide space for painting classic images of Detroit landscapes. Because of its sturdy construction, the City Chair is a useful piece of furniture as well as a decorative art object.
Boswell, known for his photography and art direction, has a background in painting, drawing, and graphic design. At one time, he was known for his extreme hat designs; this project took him into the realm of sculpture and gave him the chance to play with different materials and techniques. For the chair challenge, Boswell says he decided to marry part of a classic chair with the absence of the rest — he calls it “an ode to the Ghost chair, in a way.” The back of the chair is hand-formed plastic, reminiscent of liquid crystal, while the seat and front legs are constructed of wood, with the addition of black rubber and silver leaf. boswellstudio.com
Katie Hawley used lace and found objects from Detroit studio floors to make her chair. After a liquid resin was poured, she torched it to create a bubbly surface. In a nutshell, her piece was inspired by a combination of fire, lace, gold paint, and leftover technology, as well as speed and movement, she says, adding that she mostly combined lace, oil paint, used clothing, used wires, recycled cables, resin, and a small American flag to turn out her end product. Its name, incidentally, comes from a recent memorable night while she was on deadline to create the piece. One must always take time out for friends, good dinners, and a beverage or two, she believes. And that's what she did while in the midst of creating her chair. Its name, Liquid V, comes from “Liquid Velvet Martinis!”
Andy Warhol Looks a Scream
Tony Roko wanted to use a high-quality and collectible chair that also represented mid-century design and was manufactured in Michigan. The obvious choice was the Herman Miller Eames chair, designed by Charles and Ray Eames. Roko says the historical significance fit his needs, and the contoured design provided him with a suitable palette. He then needed to choose a subject, and wanted to pick a historical figure that fit with the era of the chair and would be immediately recognizable and visually interesting. Pop Art icon Andy Warhol turned out to be a perfect match. The angular positioning of Warhol’s portrait on the chair, coupled with the addition of his classic signature, added an element of commercial flair that serves as an homage to his legacy as an artist. artofroko.com
Antonio ‘Shades’ Agee
Antonio “Shades” Agee transformed a basic brown chair into a veritable artwork, mostly by changing up its original palette. This concept can apply to just about anything — adding appropriate color can make a huge difference in many areas of design.