There is a kind of fuzzy line where fine art and functional design intersect, and some artists and designers cross it regularly. A few of them are putting on a show to highlight that intersection. "Housework" opens this weekend at Washington Gall...

There is a kind of fuzzy line where fine art and functional design intersect, and some artists and designers cross it regularly. A few of them are putting on a show to highlight that intersection. "Housework" opens this weekend at Washington Galleries downtown.

The initiator of the show, Duluth textile artist Kirsten Aune, says the idea came out of an exchange she participated in with Duluth's Swedish Sister City, Vaxjo. In Scandinavia, she said, design stores with modern artistic furniture and other functional items are common. The trend is coming to America, too, and has already hit some big box retailers.

And some of her favorite artists, she adds, are also designers who made their own clothes and painted their own houses.

"I think of functional work also as art," she said. Art in that form can even be easier for some people to appreciate than art for its own sake.

With living spaces all around us, the possibilities for design and art to interact are endless, and without aesthetic value in the functional things -- coffee mugs or chairs, say -- life can be pretty boring. "I don't understand people that can live in these weird places without anything to look at," said Aune last week, noting she likes vivid -- although not gaudy -- colors in her living area.


{IMG2}Aune, after talking to some other Duluth artists, thought it might be an interesting concept to build a show around. "Housework" features about 20 pieces of furniture, textiles, stained glass and pottery, all produced by seven artists: Aune, Jay Billig, Michael Cousino, Kerry Donars, Dan Edmunds, Mark Sherman and A.C. Webster.

Edmunds, a Duluth potter, said the show was a natural for him: functional pottery is his thing.

"I like to do functional pots," he said. "That's kind of what I've done always, really, more so than sculptural work. I like to kind of push the envelope in a way toward form but having still the element of function."

He jumped at the opportunity.

Billing has done projects ranging in scope from greeting cards to complete residential remodeling and additions. He is working on a furniture project from the show.

Donars also does furniture, specializing in timber frame construction. Sherman is another timber-frame carpenter, and also a teacher at Ordean Middle School. Webster works in glass, incorporating recycled glass.

Cousino, who specializes in graphic design and also does fine art and sculpture, said the show has given him a chance to experiment.

"For me, the whole soul of this show is it gives people like me an opportunity to do something they've wanted to do for a long time," he said.


His project is a "pretty non-traditional" coffee table that involves welding, casting resin and wood in a design inspired by Lake Superior -- and that's all the details he's giving. He sees it more as a piece of furniture than as an art piece -- he notes that he overbuilds for quality -- but says since he works in both realms often, this kind of project is natural.

"I've always had those lines skewed," he said.

The elements of fine are there too.

"During this process, the thing I'm making is functional, yet it's a one of a kind original," he said. "... I wanted this thing handed down to people. ... I don't want it to end up in a dump or anything."

Cousino, who also designed the show's Web site, raises one point that's definitely from the design side of the divide, rather than the fine art side: reproducibility. "I'm seeing that this show might be an opportunity for some of the designers in the show to actually get their designs out and start selling it on a regular basis," he said.

Aune also hinted at that, noting that news of the show has been spread to the Twin Cities and beyond. There will also be a gift shop at the show, where some items like pillows and lamp shades will be offered for sale.

Bringing all the artists together is a challenge, and Aune is working with a couple of the artists collaboratively. She said that while each brings a different background, they all have common tastes -- nothing very ornate but lots of modern sleek designs and an interest in line and shape. And they're all "measurers," she said. She said with their combined efforts they could probably build a house and everything in it.

She hopes the show will eventually travel and provide opportunities for the artists, and she hopes to do similar shows to follow up on this one.


"Housework" opened with a reception Friday, and it runs through Dec. 1. Hours at Washington Galleries, 315 N. Lake Ave., are Saturdays and Sundays from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m., but private viewing can be arranged by calling 723-8134. For more information on the show or to see more samples of the work being exhibited, see the "Housework" Web site, http://www.dharma

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