Tables that talk, settees that sing | AspenTimes.com

Tables that talk, settees that sing

Stewart OksenhornThe Aspen TimesAspen, CO Colorado

Rachel DeBoard/Special to The Aspen TimesSinisa Kukec, an artist in residence at Anderson Ranch, is seeking donated furniture from the Roaring Fork Valley community.

SNOWMASS VILLAGE – This past week, Snowmass Villager Sinisa Kukec went to the county dump, in search of some furniture. The pickings were slim, but eventually he found a chair. On close inspection, though, he found something missing – not a leg, or the back support. It was missing a story.”It just didn’t sing,” he said.Kukec is an artist in residence at Snowmass’ Anderson Ranch Arts Center, and he’s asking the community if they’d like to pitch in with donated furniture. The pieces don’t need to be top-end, or even in particularly good working condition, and can be a desk, a chair, a night table. What they should have is a link to the person donating the piece, a history Kukec can work off of.”It would be nice if someone had a connection to it. Then it will be a conversation with the person who gives me the piece,” Kukec, a 44-year-old native of Croatia who was raised in Winnipeg, said. “Whatever anybody is willing to donate, I’ll have a talk with them about it. There needs to be a discovery, or some sort of relationship.”Kukec was trained as a ceramist, and spent two years in the late ’90s as a resident at Anderson Ranch before heading to the famed ceramics program at Alfred University in upstate New York. Four years ago, Kukec moved to Miami and found himself with no ceramic facilities. So, as artists will do, he turned to what he did have – the furniture that was left in the warehouse where he lived.Of particular interest was a dresser drawer that he had shared with a girlfriend. He took the dresser apart – “not a violent act,” he assured, “fairly methodical” – created a sculpture – a female figure lounging on a pedestal. In discovering a new process for making art, he found that it wasn’t so much the raw material that had meaning to him, but how the furniture had been used (and the fact that, when it was merely a piece of furniture, it always seemed to be in the way).”It had some sort of attraction, some history,” Kukec said. “It was a real groundbreaking piece. It turned out to be about notions of love – past relationships, potential new ones.”Kukec began seeing potential art in every odd piece of furniture, and ceramics was abandoned. “The work started to feed itself. It became kind of a reflex,” he said, adding that the work was influenced by past romances, friendship and his brother’s cancer. “And being in Miami, especially in the neighborhood I was in, in North Miami Beach, at the end of each month there would be massive piles of furniture, from people being evicted, just abandoning their furniture. Miami really provided a way to push this process. Eventually, I’d get calls from friends: ‘You’ve got to go to this corner.'” There was such an abundance of furniture that Kukec was able to get picky, favoring big, old desks of 1950s-70s vintage.Kukec’s day job was as an art handler at the Museum of Contemporary Art/North Miami. A piece of furniture there caught his eye – an Eames chair out behind the museum that belonged to the museum director, Bonnie Clearwater. One day he saw the chair tossed in the trash, so Kukec liberated it and transformed it into a portrait of Clearwater. He saw the piece as his calling card to Miami’s upper-level art world, and within time he began to step into that world. Last year, Kukec had a solo exhibition at Florida’s Arts & Culture Center of Hollywood; next month, he will have an exhibition, during the massive and prominent Art Basel Miami, at Scope Miami, curated by the rising young curator Anthony Spinello.Kukec has plenty of recent work to show. But he’d like to make something new, something from the Roaring Fork Valley, to bring to Florida.”I’m interested to see if people want to donate furniture to be a foundation of this work,” Kukec said. “But also to get to know the person, to find the personal history. Granted, the pieces I picked up off the streets in Miami didn’t have a personal history, but they had a kind of language, a texture.”It can be anything that sings to me.”stewart@aspentimes.com