Edward M. Kennedy (EMK) Institute
Tuesday–Sunday 10am to 5pm
Columbia Point 210 Morrissey Blvd. Boston, MA 02125
A Seat at the Table
In May, I was accepted for the incredible opportunity of making a "seat" to represent the story of Senator Barbara Mikulski for an exhibition at the Edward M. Kennedy (EMK) Institute in Boston, MA, which opened in June. The collection includes 20 chairs designed and created by artists from across the country. The chairs highlight the achievements of activists, legislators, and other Americans with contemporary or historic significance.
Before this commission, I had no clue who Senator Barbara Mikulski was, but thanks to some research and more than a few hours of C-SPAN videos, I feel like I got to know who this woman is. Sure after serving as Senator of Maryland for 30 years she is the longest-serving woman in both the Senate and Congress, but that's not what spoke to me when considering how to represent "Senator Barb". No what I couldn't forget was that in multiple speeches she spoke about, "Behind me is a whole lot of we", which is what I wanted to embody in the "seat" I designed and made. It became extremely apparent that Senator Barbara Mikulski is a no-nonsense woman with a quite the sense of humor who values where she came from.
The loveseat sized bench is made from Sapele wood includes two laser-cut birch plywood panels. The left panel shows a dining room or gathering place. One of the things she is known for is starting a once a month bi-partisan dinner for all the women of the senate. Her desire was to create a welcome and inclusive space or as she calls is a “Zone of Civility” where they could discuss anything. Behind the table, framed between two windows is the flag of Maryland to represent her state. In one window can be found a building from Mount Saint Agnes College a Catholic college she attended and frequently refers to in regards to the values she holds. The college was also purchased by John Hopkins University where she currently teaches. In the second window is the Hubble telescope. She was a fierce advocate for science funding, including the Hubble telescope. Lastly, this panel contains a small semi-hidden pair of pants, which are draped over the back of a chair in the corner. When Senator Mikulski started her tenure in the Senate women were not allowed to wear pants on the floor of the Senate but her and another instigated that rule being changed.
The right panel shows a city street and grocery store that might be similar to where she was raised in the Highlandtown neighborhood of East Baltimore. Her father owned a grocery store and in many of her speeches she addresses appreciation for her childhood and growing up in a working class family, where she learned the value of hard work and fairness. A sign above the grocery store reads “Diner”; representing her Monday in Maryland when she would visit diners and talk to the people she served. Finally, her sense of humor is shown through a sign on the grocery store window for macaroni and cheese, “We work on macro issues and macaroni and cheese issues. When women are in the halls of power, our national debate reflects the needs and dreams of American families.”
More information about A Seat at the Table can be found here.
More information about Artists Selected can be found here.
More information about Trailblazers represented can be found here.
My "seat" is in recognition of Senator Barbara Mikulski from Maryland.
Bench is 47" x 40" x 18", Sapele and laser-cut birch plywood,