Louise Nevelson was a Russian born American artist who created wood assemblages. Her work, to me, is one of the clearest examples of Unity (as a guiding principle for the creation of a work) I could point to when I was teaching art. Because of that, when I recently sought inspiration for a charity piece, I thought of her work.
The way that her work "works," is that all the pieces that are put together are then painted in a single color to remove their instant individuality. Usually, she used flat black (sometimes white or gold), which is what I chose as my unifying color for the piece I created to benefit our local arts commission. I titled the work (which was a rehabbed and embellished chair) "After Louise" as a nod to the artist who inspired my methodology. The gimmick for the arts benefit was for local artists to create/reimagine a chair for a "Chairity" auction. I selected a well-worn old oak chair to transform. I then used nine different varieties of wood to recreate it. In the photos, you will see that the individuality of the different pieces is a bit of a distraction in the early going. Yes, some of the more fun elements stand out in a pleasing way, but those differences make it hard to see the work as a single form--which is what made Louise's black paint such an effective tool.
The first step was making the old chair safe for sitting. Like lots of other old chairs, the joints were a bit loose. Evidently, it had been partly disassembled before--one rung on the side of the chair had been removed and re-inserted in the wrong orientation--the straight end of the rung had been put into the angled hole. After a bit of wrenching and pounding, she was put back to rights, and in addition to the glue freshly added to the joints, I added a number of good 2"-3" screws...knowing that by the time I was finished, this old chair was going to weigh a good bit more than it had previously.
To me, it was important to maintain the functionality of the piece. What good is a chair you can't sit on? Careful placement of the new additions made sure that the act of sitting was not inhibited by protrusions of the cherry, walnut, spruce, poplar, mahogany, oak, cedar, maple or pine embellishments. Most of my work includes elements of Rhythm or Pattern (two more principles of design), and this piece is no exception. Additions to the structure work into the "interior" of the leg structure as well as to the exterior of the chair frame.
In this image (above), you can also see my tendencies to humor. The exclamation point is grossly evident without the black paint, as are the enormous knobs (curtain rod ends) on the sides. The knobs are helpful in maneuvering the piece... it ended up tipping the scales at close to 40 pounds. But mostly they are there because they're funny.
As the black goes on, you can watch the various pieces disappear into the whole. The finely-grained woods just become rather smooth, while the open grain of the old oak pieces of chair become new textural elements that add to the interest of the piece.
The final two shots give you a glimpse of the finished, "unified," work. It was a great deal of fun to do, and I cleared out a PILE of scraps out of my workshop!