New Exhibition in the Schaefer Art Gallery Takes On Surrealist Furniture Posted on March 5th, 2022 by

Maxwell McInnis makes surrealist furniture, blurring the edges of fine art and design. (Photo courtesy of Maxwell McInnis)

Opening in the Schaefer Art Gallery at Gustavus Adolphus College on March 8 is Dress Shopping at the Davenport Salvation Army Family Store and Donation Center, featuring works by artist Maxwell McInnis.

Based on the experience of going to a thrift shop and blending pieces of other people’s lives into something new, the exhibition is made of surrealist furniture from log benches to tables to candleholders. “The whole show is sort of meant to be a surrealist bent on my experiences being a young queer kid growing up in the Midwest and viewing going to thrift shops as a place where you could remake your own identity into whatever you wanted,” said McInnis.

Continuing assistant professor Nicolas Darcourt, who manages exhibition programming for the Schaefer Art Gallery, first saw McInnis’s work at the SOO VAC gallery in Minneapolis in 2020. “I was drawn to their style of dissolving the boundaries between object, ornamentation, and concept,” he said. “I was stricken by how the combination of materials was both visually complex and somewhat irreverent.” 

Many of the recent exhibitions at the Schaefer Gallery have featured more traditional mediums of visual art, such as painting, photography and sculpture. “This exhibition gives the audience an opportunity to see that topics such as function and design can be expressive and offer an equally significant experience to the viewer,” said Darcourt. 

Working primarily with furniture, McInnis often ends up playing in the intersection of what is design and what is fine art. “I don’t really see many of those differences myself, so I sort of end up playing between a lot of these worlds,” they said. McInnis has a BFA in furniture design from the Rhode Island School of Design.

“I’ve been kicking around the idea of log furniture as literally taking giant hunks of trees and upholstering them in traditional upholstery methods,” said McInnis. One of the pieces in the exhibition is a bench of green plaid, made out of a large log. “It is literally a large tree that fell in our backyard. I dragged it in, started sanding it, and upholstered it into a bench.”

McInnis says they hope visitors don’t get too hung up on what each individual piece is trying to say, rather than engaging with the entire space. “The individual pieces to me are exciting elements within that greater visual narrative that I’m trying to build,” said McInnis. “What I really hope people take away from the visit is a sense of the little world that I like to make,” they said.

Dress Shopping at the Davenport Salvation Army Family Store and Donation Center runs in the Schaefer Art Gallery from March 8 to April 6. There will be an artist talk on March 14 from 3:30-4:15 p.m. in the FAA Lecture Room. The artist will discuss and show images of past works and projects, as well as discuss their career development in the creative field.  There will also be a gallery reception March 14 from 4:30-6:30 p.m. in the Schaefer Art Gallery. The gallery hours are Monday through Friday from 8-4 p.m. Please visit the Schaefer Art Gallery website for the most updated information.


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