Friday, August 5, 2011

Chairs: Conversations with Family & Art

"Ghost Chair II" by Robert H. Ballard

In October of last year my husband/artist Robert H. Ballard and his daughter, master quilter and author Alethea Ballard, collaborated on a unique art exhibit in our gallery.  The subject was "Chairs: A Conversation". The exhibit was well received (meaning they both sold a lot of work) and I wrote about this event in Virginia Living Magazine.  I am re-posting it here (with more artwork images) because I love them both so much and I want more people to see their work. Enjoy!

This is a post about family and art.

"Lupe Arm Chair", by Alethea Ballard, Maverick Quilts

My husband, artist Robert H. Ballard, and his daughter, master quilter and author Alethea Ballard, will present a unique art exhibit, “Chairs: A Conversation”, opening Saturday, Oct. 23, 2010, at our gallery R.H. Ballard located in Little Washington, Virginia. This father/daughter art exhibit is unique in itself but the subject is also unique: “Chairs”.

"Genosese Chair" by Robert H. Ballard

Robert’s chair paintings have architectural specificity, texture, emotion and place, and Alethea’s art quilts are wild and lively, exuberant and full of movement. The juxtaposition of these two art forms, with “chairs” as the subject matter, along with this unique father/daughter collaboration, creates a surprisingly fresh, fun and engaging exhibit.

"Milano Chair" by Robert H. Ballard

 Robert started painting images of chairs while we were on a visit to Paris four years ago. There was a French armchair in our Paris rental apartment that he just sketched one day. It was a comfy, crème-colored chair that faced some pretty French doors. We both loved sitting in it. He came home from that trip and began researching chair design and its history. He did more drawings and more paintings that we in turn sold successfully in our gallery.

A couple of years ago, Robert sent a chair painting as a present to his daughter who lives in California. Being a quilter, she was inspired by it and began creating chair imagery in her quilts. She loved doing it so much she found herself creating more quilts using the “chair” theme. Around Christmas time, Alethea sent Robert a present of an art quilt that was inspired by his chair paintings. It was a small 12 x 12 quilt that was stretched over a wooden frame with a fanciful image of a chair designed with vibrant fabrics. We were both so impressed by it that I encouraged him to have a collaborative show of both of their works the following fall. So, for the past year, he and Alethea have been communicating back and forth, from east coast to west coast, viewing each other’s art work and being further inspired.

"Julian Lopez Chair' by Alethea Ballard

C&T Publishing was also impressed with Alethea’s work and wanted to publish her quilt designs in a book form. The result was Dream Chair Quilts, 7 blocks for Whimsical Wall Hangings, a new appliqué pattern pack that will be out December 2010. She is now finishing her second book, Maverick Quilts, Using Large-Scale Prints, Novelty Fabrics & Panels with Panache, and is in process of working on a third. She also hopes one day to create her own line of fabric designs.

"Yellow Peacock Chair" by Alethea Ballard

Alethea has lived in the East Bay Area of California most of her life. She lives and breathes fabric and quilting. She is a teacher and does instructional workshops on her quilting style. Alethea’s impatience with convention has pushed her towards more spontaneity and joy with her designs, allowing for more unexpected results. Her introduction to art as a child was first looking through artist's books with her father. The many hours spent with her father on trips to galleries and museums are fond memories. She enjoyed watching her father paint as she grew up and always felt influenced by his paintings. She’s delighted to be able to share this love of painting and quilting with her father through this collaborative exhibit.

"Yin Yang" by Robert H. Ballard

Robert’s paintings of chairs began by chance, but as he began studying the structure of chairs, he discovered how they also communicated feeling, memory and place. Something as simple and ordinary as a chair is elevated to regal status because it is the solitary subject featured on the canvas -- it is the landscape, it is the portrait and it is the main event. The viewer comes to each artwork with their own past experiences and the chairs ultimately take on that view.

"Van Gogh Chair" by Alethea Ballard

A chair could be for sitting, meditating, reading a book, a job interview, or talking with friends. A chair could spark memories such as “dad’s favorite chair” or “my therapist’s chair”. Chairs have historical significance, such as the iconic Louis XVI chair. Famous chairs grace the Smithsonian Institution (Archie Bunker’s TV chair,) and in 1996 one of JFK's rocking chairs sold at auction for over $400,000. Numerous museums like the Museum of Modern Art have workshops and exhibits on the evolution of chair design, which Robert and I enjoyed this past summer. Strangely enough, chairs have immense purpose and significance in our lives and yet they are something most people take for granted.

Exhibit Information: “Chairs: A Conversation”, Oct 23 – Nov 14, 2010. R.H. Ballard Gallery, 307 Main Street, Washington, Va. Hours: 10am-6pm Daily, 540-675-1411,

Alethea Ballard, Maverick Quilts
Robert H. Ballard, Chair Paintings
Dream Chair Quilts, C&T Publishing, Dec. 2010
Alethea's Blog
Alethea's Publications