Mingei Preview 2-0-1-2

annie_0 annieandkaren_0 highchair pacman_0 primary

Chairs; Finnish chairs to be exact.  What amazing imagination they reveal! Simple, delightful or simply delightful, these chairs are being unpacked for display in the New Year. They’ll be part of an exhibition entitled NORTHERN STARS — Twentieth Century Finnish Design, opening January 29.

There’s a high chair that’s just high enough.  It’s made of light wood with a solid, molded white semicircle for sides and back. The possibly squirming child is held safely in place by a wooden T-shape, a horizontal bar supported by a vertical bar in the center of the seat front. Legs go on either side of the vertical bar. The horizontal bar prevents falling forward. Just slip in the child, push him/her up to the table, and enjoy a meal together. There is no figuring out how to take the tray off while holding a wiggling creature under one arm. There is no strapping in a person who does not want to be restrained. How civilized!  When my grandchildren were tiny, I suggested they stay that way as long as possible, so I could enjoy having little people in my life. Like my children, they didn’t listen. They grew, and I have no need now for an ingenious high chair.  I can still dream.

There is a molded plastic chair, a very low, yellow, squashed globe with a big indentation in the middle – for sitting.  It has been suggested by several of my colleagues that it looks like Pac Man. I wonder if it scuttles across the floor devouring little bugs when the Museum is closed.

A camp chair bears no resemblance at all to those cleverly sheathed blue or green arm chairs with cup holders that are ubiquitous at children’s soccer games.  (I wonder if children are forbidden to play soccer if their parents don’t own at least two of those chairs) This camp chair is a subtle series of triangles.  It’s white with red arms and black legs and ridiculously light. I see no carrying case for it. The seat is part of a triangle, cut off by a vertical rectangular back piece to form a trapezoid. Lurking behind the back piece is the rest of the triangle with its apex attached to the frame. The chair back ends with another triangle, deftly folded flat.  The legs are supported by X-shaped braces that also form triangles, four for each set of legs. (I hope my high school geometry teacher is reading this, and that he is reassured.  All was not in vain.)

A big black chair is wide and molded and graceful and has a cutout in the back.  It has Jean Harlow glamor.  There are also the luscious red chair, practical purple chair, curvaceous black chair and the cardboard chair that looks as if it might have been put together with directions about folding tabs a and into slots a and b.  All are wonderfully geometric, novel and elegant.

Smaller things are coming out of other crates and our registrar Annie and her sidekick Karen are unpacking wonderful objects one-by-one. This is how they do it.  Wearing surgical gloves, they unwrap and examine each piece. After Karen gently hands her an object and they discuss it, Annie writes what is known as a condition report in a legible and tiny hand, describing the piece and any special quality they’ve observed.  If she has a cup and saucer, she writes a report on the cup and another on the saucer.  Annie and Karen function as the mothers of our collections and exhibitions.  It’s wonderful to watch them at work. What patience!  What calm!  And what fierce protection they give to their charges!  Now you know why you shouldn’t touch objects in the Museum.  Annie or Karen might get you.

I am off to visit my children who live in Honolulu where there are some remarkable Museums.  I’ll tell you what I saw when I return. If I can’t wait, I’ll tell you sooner. Happy New Year!