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Mark Sfirri: La Famiglia

NOVEMBER 1, 2024 — FEBRUARY 16, 2025


Family Tree, 2020. A total of 14 carved and painted heads.

Mark Sfirri

This highly autobiographical exhibition of new and never-before-seen work by celebrated artist and woodturner Mark Sfirri presents a way of thinking about the definition of family and its meanings through different lenses: families that are chosen vs. born into; families of species (trees and wood types) and identities; and familial strife and unconditional love, support, and dysfunction. It represents a coming to terms with generational passing, through the artist’s adoption of a spontaneous, “flow state” approach in his turning, carving, and surfacing processes. The grandchild of four first-generation Americans who came through Ellis Island around 1900 and settled in Chester, the oldest city in Pennsylvania, the artist presents several installations of sculpture that consider communities comprised of families with their own histories, ethnic backgrounds, biases, and quirks—all trying to coexist in new and evolving worlds.

In addition to new works by Sfirri, and true to the artist’s passion for collaboration, the exhibition presents a collaborative project that includes the work of 45 artists and colleagues who were asked to contribute a two-dimensional artwork depicting an “immigrant” of their choice, whether a person or an idea. In some cases, the subject is indigenous to the land in which they and their descendants were born and raised; in others, the immigrants are the artists themselves—all serve to challenge assumptions and deepen conceptions toward immigration, families and lineages, and influence.

The exhibition is accompanied by a full-color catalogue, published by the Museum for Art in Wood, that includes essays by artist Miriam Carpenter and writer and curator Craig Edelbrock along with writings by Sfirri and documentation on the works in the exhibition.

Mark Sfirri is an esteemed figure in the world of woodturning and woodworking. Born with an innate passion for craftsmanship, creativity, and artistic collaboration, he is renowned for his innovations in art in wood.

Sfirri earned a BFA and MFA in Furniture Design at Rhode Island School of Design, where he began to explore ways to incorporate lathe-turned parts into furniture and turned some double-rimmed platters, one of which was his first off-center turning. As an MFA student, he made a set of six dining chairs constructed of off-center turned elements, which planted the seeds for his future experimentations in multi-axis spindle turning.

Sfirri’s work has been exhibited in prestigious galleries and museums worldwide, and is held in numerous public collections including the Museum of Arts & Design (NY), Carnegie Museum of Art (Pittsburgh, PA), the Renwick Gallery of the Smithsonian American Art Museum (DC), the Minneapolis Institute of Art (MN), the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (CA), Yale University Art Gallery, the James A. Michener Art Museum (Doylestown, PA), and the Museum of Art in Wood (Philadelphia, PA). As a maker, researcher, and writer, he has conducted demonstrations and lectures throughout North America, Europe, Australia, and New Zealand.

In addition to his role as an artist, Sfirri is professor emeritus at Bucks County Community College (Newtown, PA), where he taught fulltime for nearly 40 years. He has received three national awards: the “Distinguished Educator Award” in 2010 from the Renwick Alliance and, in 2012, the “Lifetime Achievement Award” from the Collectors of Wood Art, and this year receives the prestigious “2024 AAW POP Merit Award” from the American Association of Woodturners.