Last quarter, my friend Casey Parthemore created this piece for visiting professor Lisa Hsieh’s seminar.
This piece consists of a chair, reupholstered in cake frosting, and a lamp, its shade covered in the same. While her use of found objects immediately recalls Duchamp’s Ready-Mades, this is not a mere rehashing of the historical avant-garde. The material treatment brings to mind the architectural models of late-60s Viennese architectural collective Haus-Rucker-Co, whose cake models were devoured as a dynamic treatise on the fleeting relevance of all avant-garde art and architecture, whose radical newness can never be permanent.
Material transposition can be aligned with numerous historical and contemporary art practices. Here, her use of frosting-as-media deals explicitly with domesticity and consumption. That the chair is a comfortable wing chair rendered functionally useless by its material construction is a comment on the utility of aesthetically-driven furniture design. This criticism of the anti-functionalist appeal of couture art-furniture could also be seen as a statement about the accelerating pace of forced obsolescence in product design, and a revelation & critique of the implicit gender roles involved in the construction of domestic space.
Though the piece could be considered deeply theoretical in conception, the objects themselves are immediately comprehensible, whimsical, and tactile. The scent of vanilla immediately triggers memories, a childlike sense of wonder and desire. By the end of the week-long exhibit, the chair was marred by hundreds of fingerprints.
Finally, temporality was not at issue. Rather than decaying, the frosting disintegrating, and revealing the upholstery below, the chair was removed as suddenly as it had appeared, lingering only in memory, and the faint whiff of vanilla that had permeated Knowlton Hall….
See more of Casey’s work on Flickr, and in her store on Etsy.
Thoughts on the M.Arch I program at the Ohio State University, 2005-2009, plus additional work with OSU as a critic and lecturer.