Seats of Privilege exhibit power lunch and discussion at Wildewood Gallery

·5 min read

Wood artist David Ferguson hosted an invitation-only power lunch to celebrate and discuss his exhibit Seats of Privilege at the Wildewood Gallery in Maynooth on Sept. 8 at 1 p.m. In addition to a lunch catered by the Sun Run Café and Bakery, also in Maynooth, The event was sponsored by Rise Above Guest House and its owner and operator Marilyn Zehr. Ferguson and gallery owners Joey Shulman and Barry Siegrist invited a discussion on privilege in all its forms as the attendees sat on the Seats of Privilege and enjoyed their lunch.

The inaugural private viewing for the Seats of Privilege occurred on Sept. 8 over a power lunch at 1 p.m. Other private viewings are available on Thursdays throughout September for a power breakfast or power lunch by request. Interested parties are asked to email or call 613-338-3134 to book a spot. There is maximum seating for six people and the meals are catered by Sun Run Café and Bakery.

Owen Smith and Maya Septon are the owners of the Sun Run Café and Bakery, the establishment’s chef and the baker respectively. They said they got involved in the event due to their friendship with the Shulman and Siegrist and their desire to support events in Maynooth.

“The food was designed to be seasonal with soup and salad using vegetables from the artist’s garden as well as our restaurant gardens. More seasonal flavours will be present in the desserts for future seatings,” they say.

Potter Amy Doole will be supplying some of the dinnerware that will be used for the power breakfasts and lunches, although according to Ferguson it was not ready in time for the inaugural power lunch on Sept. 8. At this inaugural power lunch, the attendees were Mike and Bernice Page, Nancy Wilson, a person who did not wish to be named and a certain Bancroft Times reporter.

Named after Shulman and Siegrist’s patron saint Oscar Wilde, the Wildewood Gallery on the main street of Maynooth has been showcasing local artists for the past nine years, many of whom have gone on to showcase their work around the world. Ferguson’s Seats of Privilege exhibit had its grand opening on Sept. 11, and is expected to be shown at the gallery until the end of October.

Designed to be an engaging and challenging experience, the Seats of Privilege exhibit is meant to be experienced by the viewing public, hence the power breakfasts/lunches where attendees can discuss the work. At least six seats will be set up at the dining table at these events, each individually embellished to reflect types of privilege and power that attendees can choose from to sit on. The dining table was from Ferguson’s woodWord exhibit at the Annex Gallery at A Place for the Arts in Bancroft a couple of years ago, which features a panel of text running along the centre of it and draping over its edges with repetitions of the different senses we use. Four of the major forces that Ferguson thinks are extant are painted on the table legs; radiation, entropy, consciousness and gravity. Inspired by Daniel Kahneman’s book Thinking Fast and Slow about cognitive processes, Ferguson wanted to present some of the ideas, concepts and queries he encounters on a daily basis in his art, specifically privilege, and convey them in the Seats of Privilege exhibit.

For more than 20 years, Ferguson has lived in L’Amable, just south of Bancroft, where he does his woodworking, creating his wood art, which is self taught. Prior to that, after having graduated from the Media Studies program at Toronto Metropolitan University (formerly Ryerson University), he worked as a photographer and did art gallery installations in Toronto. Since moving up to L’Amable, he has also done gallery installations at the Art Gallery of Bancroft, was the president of AGB for one term and has done trim work in local area homes. He also took part in the Bancroft and Area Autumn Studio Tour for five years. His woodworking studio is off the grid, employing solar power, a wood boiler and sometimes a generator for his woodworking needs.

Ferguson reveals that he used dying ash trees from his managed forest on his property and processed them locally to build his Seats of Privilege. According to Ferguson, the Seats of Privilege have been two years in the making.

As to why he chose a chair to express privilege, Ferguson says in his August press release about the Seats of Privilege exhibit that chair usage has historically been the privilege of the powerful, like a Queen on a throne or a business director in a large office chair.

“Who hasn’t approached a desk and remained standing in communication with the seated individual behind that desk? Even in a conventional dining room arrangement, the head of the table generally features a more imposing chair. Status, wealth and privilege continue to be denoted by the seating arrangements and the quality and design of the seats,” he said in the release.

Ferguson says that his design for the Seats of Privilege was developed to make them solid looking, slightly aggressive and expressive of power, force and privilege. He reveals that the design refers to directors’ chairs but that they suit a dining room or could fit behind a bureaucratic desk too.

The construction of the chairs consists of the aforementioned ash wood, and the joinery is mortise and tenon. According to Ferguson, the seatbacks are made from plywood and laminates, leaving room to carve, stencil and perforate text and symbols into the chair parts.

Ferguson says that his handiwork makes it personal and that he thinks the elements of craft and functionality assist in taking the ideas and concepts past an intellectual discussion.

“Putting these pieces and the ideas into lived spaces and into actual use where action and circumstances exist does it even better. Paradigms and cognitive biases are at play in our perceptions and interactions with power and privilege,” he says. “I would like to see conversations initiated about some of the things presented or discovered in this work.”

Michael Riley, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Bancroft Times