For artists, play can mean serious work. Play allows the mind to roam and encounter unusual solutions, whether it be in process or concept. The processes of making and imagining work in tandem for these artists, where grand, exquisite, whimsical and magical forms emerge from diligent exploration.
This exhibition celebrates the power of imagination, big ideas, craft ingenuity, and the child in all of us. It spotlights the work of several artists who are profiled in the 2023 episodes in Craft in America’s PBS documentary series, PLAY and MINIATURES.
- Miniaturist Mark Murphy
- Paper sculptor Roberto Benavidez
- Piñata artist Lorena Robletto
- Puppeteer, artist museum educator Schroeder Cherry
- Artist, advocate, educator Calder Kamin
The PBS broadcast premiere for PLAY and MINIATURES is December 29, 2023 (check local listings).
Larry White is an artist, educator, and furniture maker based in Southern California. White met Sam Maloof in 1962, and the two began a lifelong friendship based on their mutual love of art. White went on to apprentice with Maloof for seven years as his first studio employee. He would ultimately spend 29 years of his career collaborating with Maloof in some capacity.
White took his first position as an educator in 1969, teaching crafts, jewelry, furniture design, and metalworking at Cal State Fullerton. He relocated within California at various points in his career, always maintaining a multidisciplinary studio art practice. He describes his creative process as stream-of-consciousness, drawing inspiration from a wide range of sources.
White currently maintains ceramics and multimedia studios in Pioneertown, CA. He has been an artist-in-residence at the Sam and Alfreda Maloof Foundation since 2016.
Lauren Verdugo is a Southern California-based artist, woodworker, and furniture designer. Verdugo began their formal training in 2016 by apprenticing with master woodworker Larry White, whom they met through an internship at the Sam and Alfreda Maloof foundation. They went on to complete their BA in Applied Design at San Diego State University in 2021, and are currently enrolled in Long Beach State University’s woodworking MFA program.
Verdugo’s designs emphasize the unique attributes of their source material, including history, meaning, and physical features. Minimalist forms are punctuated by playful decorative elements. Verdugo rhythmically juxtaposes hard and soft lines, heavy and light features, resulting in works which appear sturdy, yet distinctly energetic. Their award-winning work has been published in a variety of regional craft periodicals. In addition to their multimedia arts practice, they teach wood workshops at the Sam and Alfreda Maloof Foundation in Alta Loma, CA and at Allied Woodshop in Los Angeles, CA.
Ryan Taber is a Los-Angeles based artist, woodworker, and educator. Since 2015, he has served as head of the Wood program at Cal State University Long Beach’s School of Art. The program has expanded significantly under Taber’s leadership, emphasizing sustainability and critical thinking at every step in the creative process.
Taber’s art practice fuses painting, photography and mixed-media sculpture. Each piece utilizes an intricate web of historical references to interrogate notions of art and visual culture. Taber prioritizes materiality, which is reflected in the CSULB Wood program’s initiative to recycle wood from nearby dead trees which would otherwise go to landfill. The challenges inherent in working with imperfect, recycled wood encourage Taber’s students to continuously problem solve and maintain an ongoing dialogue with their materials.
Laura Mays is a woodworker and furniture designer living in Fort Bragg, California. Originally from Ireland, Mays has alternated between her home country and Northern California throughout her educational and professional career. Mays utilizes local, sustainable materials and prides herself on “using skill, technique, knowledge of materials, and care to make functional things.” Her work is characterized by clean lines, simple yet dynamic forms, archetypal stylistic references, and hand-burnished finishes. She favors traditional joinery, highlighting the technical precision and structural integrity of her work. Mays has directed the fine woodworking program at the College of the Redwoods since 2011. She frequently collaborates with her partner, Rebecca Yaffe, on the furniture design endeavor Yaffe Mays.
Barbara Holmes is a sculptor and furniture maker that creates intricate and complex forms and site-specific installations. Utilizing waste materials from the city dump and other waste streams, Holmes’ work consists of recycled materials such as wood, mirror, and foam which highlight her attention to detail in form, pattern, and color. She is best known for her large installation pieces composed of carefully stacked and assembled wood lath.
Born in Southern California, Holmes attended Brigham Young University, UT where she received her B.F.A. (1993) and later attended San Diego State University, CA where she received her M.F.A. (2002). In her practice, Holmes strives to work more instinctively, reactively, and swiftly, and intends for those that view her work to analyze the materials used and reevaluate their ideas as they discover more about the piece. Holmes, with an extensive teaching background, having once served as an adjunct professor and associate professor at several institutions, is currently teaching at Saddleback College, CA as an associate professor.
Holmes has been the recipient of honors and residencies including the Alfreda Maloof Scholarship, Anderson Ranch Arts Center, CO (2001);artist-in-residence at Recology (SF Recycling and Disposal), San Francisco, CA, (2008); and artist-in-residence, Facebook, Inc. Menlo Park, CA (2013). Holmes’ work can be found in the collections of the Nepal Academy, Kathmandu, Nepal; the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, CA; Recology (SF Recycling and Disposal), San Francisco, CA; and SAP Industries, Palo Alto, CA.
Dr. Schroeder Cherry, a native of Washington, DC, is currently a Baltimore-based artist working with puppets, paintings and mixed media assemblages. Cherry captures everyday scenes of African American life, often set in barbershops and utilizing repurposed materials. He has worked in museums across the U.S., including The Art Institute of Chicago; Smithsonian Institution’s Anacostia Museum; Studio Museum of Harlem; J.Paul Getty Museum; The Baltimore Museum of Art; and Maryland Historical Society. He has held senior grant maker positions at Lila Wallace-Reader’s Digest Foundation and the Institute of Museum and Library Services. He is the Museum Curator at the James E. Lewis Museum of Art and currently teaches museum studies at Morgan State University. His works “are open-ended narratives inspired by travel, music, literature, folklore, and everyday events.”
Mark Murphy is a miniaturist. He studied at Ohio State University, with an emphasis on sculpture. He finished his studies at the Philadelphia College of Art with a BFA in woodworking and furniture design. Shortly after that he moved to San Francisco where he started making scale furniture models. It was at that time he met the miniature house builder Pam Throop and started making pieces for her period American and English houses. Mark also does collaborative work with several other miniature artists including Mary O’Brien, Patricia Hartman, Patricia Richards, Lee-Ann Wessel and Annelle Ferguson. A Fellow of the International Guild of Miniature Artisans, Mark has been teaching miniature furniture construction since 2000. He shows his work at miniature shows (The Guild show in Hartford CT, The Good Sam show in San Jose, CA and the Chicago International Miniatures Show). His work is in private miniature collections and miniature museum collections including the Gateway Center in Maysville, KY and the Toy and Miniature Museum in Kansas City, MO.
Mira Nakashima, director of George Nakashima Woodworkers and daughter of the innovative furniture maker, gave a presentation on her father’s legacy and philosophy.