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Wednesday, March 31, 2010

My Chair for the Cumberland County Historical Society's Great CHAIRity Event

The Cumberland County Historical Society's Great
CHAIRity Event is a year-long fundraiser that has been running
in conjunction with the 2010 CCHS exhibit 'Sitting
Pretty: Painted Plank Bottom Chairs of Cumberland
County' and the forthcoming book 'Painted Plank Bottom
Chairs and Chairmakers of South Central Pennsylvania
1800-1880' by Merri Lou Schaumann.

During the year, chairs were painted by local artists. The finished
chairs will be shown at various locations in the county to promote
the auction, the sponsors, the artists and the exhibit.

The Great CHAIRity event culminates in an elegant catered
picnic and auction, held at the Two Mile House on May 15, 2010,
from 5 P.M to 8 P.M. Guests can bid on chairs from the
'Painted Plank' sponsorship level.

My thanks to my sponsors, Dave and Ginny Rahal, and to Linda Witmer, Executive Director of CCHS and whose book 'Changing Images, The Art & Artists of the Carlsile Indian Industrial School' gave me much inspiration.

For my entry, I chose to design my chair based on the Carlisle Indian Industrial School,
which was founded in 1879 By Richard Henry Pratt. I wanted my design to incorporate elements of the Indian children, their artwork, their journey to the school from their native lands, and their transformation while at the school. Some came to the school, and because of illness never left the school. Others, like the amazing athlete Jim Thorpe, went on to achieve world-wide fame.
Their story is fascinating, and to learn more you can go to the Cumberland County Historical Society's Web Site.

Below is a picture of my finished chair.



The detail of the seat of the chair (found below) contains the following elements:



  • Most of the Indian children were transported to the Carlisle Indian Industrial School by train.

  • The images of the young Indian on the top left shows the young man in ceremonial dress, and then on the top right he appears in 'civilized' clothing. These two elements of the chair represent the transformation of the Indian child once they were integrated into the school environment, and were based on the famous photographs of Tom Torlino, Navaho.

  • The hub of the seat is a picture of one of the buildings on the campus of the Carlisle Indian Industrial School. If my research has served me correctly, it is the Instruction Building.

  • The image on lower left of the seat is of the Carlisle Indian Industrial School graveyard, where many students were buried. Sadness comes from viewing the headstones marked 'Unknown', and one has to wonder who these children were, and who were there ancestors.

  • The image on the lower right is of Jim Thorpe, one of the most notable students of the Indian School, and who was named All-American while attending the school.

  • The Image in the lower bottom of the seat is a reproduction of one of my favorite ledger drawings done by Taylor Ealey, a Zuni Pueblo student. I was so attracted to the bright yellow color of the horse, his prancing pose and visible hoof prints, and his beautiful ceremonial blanket and adornments.





This is a detail of the top front splat of the chair, and reproduces a drawing done by Alvin Good Boy, Sioux. This was probably the most challenging aspect of the chair because I wanted to be true to his original design, and attempted to recreate in paints the look and feel of a colored pencil drawing.





Below is a detail of the middle front splat of the chair, and reproduces a typical pattern used by the Lakota Sioux for creating a beaded belt. The yellow bands of this pattern are also repeated on the bottom rungs of the chair.




The top back splat of the chair is painted with a traditional
'Medicine Wheel'.
I painted the middle back splat with two bluebirds. The bluebird was
a design often used by the Indian children in their ledger drawings.

3 comments:

Ann Gorbett said...

Wow-this looks like it was a lot of work, Claire. Well done. Someone will be really lucky to win this chair.

AutumnLeaves said...

Claire, this is most beautiful! What a true show piece that shows a beautiful history as well. Hoping it raises lots of dollars and that you are going to the reception. It sounds like so much fun! Wish I could do something this beautiful! Great job!!

Jani Lori said...

This chair is awesome and done with such thought...and what a good cause...congrats!

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