Classic Craftsmanship Reimagined in Permutable

Michelle Polyak and Abby Hawkins

A common element visible in College seniors Lake Buckley, Lily Dithrich and Lenora Rigoni’s Senior Studio and Thesis show Permutable, shown at FAVA Gallery on May 3, was the presence of craftsmanship. Buckley, Dithrich and Rigoni work in various media ranging from woodworking to installation, from drawing to embroidery. Each artist begins her creative process with objects that already exist.

In her artist statement, Buckley writes, “In developing process oriented works, I have come to reflect on the multidimensional quality that location holds in our memories.” The artist contributed multimedia embroidery work as well as large-scale furniture installation pieces to the show; in “Incorporating Self,” Buckley sewed through found images of female farmers working in flower fields. The embroidery covers almost the entire framed image. It is broken up into multiple sections, where the pale beige string creates a plane across an imagined field. The reflective quality of the string overlapping the images adds a tactile quality to the piece.

In the Archetypes series presented in Permutable, Dithrich, primarily a woodworker, collected old pieces of furniture and remodeled them into new pieces that symbolize archetypal characters. She writes in her artist statement, “By allowing furniture to stand in for the human form, I create open-ended character studies that represent non-specific yet deeply personal inquiries into singular and interpersonal interactions.” This came across poignantly in “Two As One,” in which Dithrich stretched upholstery across two upward-tilted chairs, conjoining them intimately, while the chairs in “One As Two” faced away from each other as though in a stand-off.

Speaking about her process, Dithrich explained, “It was not preplanned. I took them into my studio and I took them apart. And then I saw that I had this unique opportunity. I had these two identical forms and what if it had eight legs and what if these pieces could mirror each other, isolating the visual forms and then putting them back together in a different way but still retaining that original visual language of the piece.”

Rigoni presented sculpture installations made with household objects like Q-tips and staples, along with drawing and prints reflective of her investigation of fine art, commercial design and architecture. She writes, “The repetition and alterations in all my work can confuse or overwhelm the viewer. At the same time, the simplicity and natural formation of the finished piece can render a sense of tranquility and familiarity.”

Her piece “!¡” encapsulates this dichotomy of chaos and quietude. Rigoni created a malleable sculpture that took on its own organic form by sewing interlocked Q-tips together into an intricate double helix cluster. More and more pockets of negative space appear as one closely examines the work, in which a utilitarian object is repurposed for artistic discovery. Rigoni described the process of making this piece: “I drilled all the Q-tips and then basically strung them together with thread. It turned out to be a long rectangle, and then I connected the ends to form a cylinder.”

The works presented by the three artists represent an ongoing exploration of art-making practices. Buckley commented, “I feel like I am in process and don’t like the idea of terminus.” Dithrich and Rigoni agreed that their final show should not be considered a finale, but rather a jumping-off point for future pursuits after Oberlin.