Wood you like to watch a movie with us?
Get your popcorn ready! The Museum’s Executive Director and Chief Curator Jennifer-Navva Milliken shares a few of her “crafty” favorites to help change the channel in your mind to something happy and creative.
The Woodwright’s Shop (PBS, 1981–2018)
Roy Underhill, founder of The Woodwright’s School and host of the PBS show, The Woodwright’s Shop, for nearly 40 years, discusses the fundamentals and beauty of wood craft. Often, special guests are invited to discuss their work and their relationship with the material, and once in a while you can catch the musical stylings of Underhill Rose, with Roy’s daughter on vocals and banjo.
Little Otik (2000)
Based on a 19th-century Czech folktale about an insatiable piece of wood possessing human attributes, Little Otik is a surreal dark comedy that presents the lives of Karel and Božena, a childless couple in a child-filled city in the Czech Republic, told through the eyes of their precocious pre-teen neighbor Alžbětka. (126 mins.)
Happy People (2013)
Deep in the Siberian wilderness, the village of Bakhtia is home to 300 people whose lifestyles and subsistence have changed little over the centuries. This visually stunning documentary reveals the story of a society untouched by modernity. (96 mins.)
This film, by the director of Helvetica, offers a deep dive into contemporary design and manufacture through the insights of some of today’s most creative and influential designers and historians. If you are intrigued by the motivations and processes that are invested in the shape, form, and functionality of the objects you use daily, Objectified will attune your understanding of the practice of design and those who determine the shape of our world. [For a delicious discussion of type and graphic design history, Hustwit’s Helvetica is a don’t-miss!] (75 mins.)
Founded in 1997 to make contemporary art more accessible to the public and to document 21st-century art and artists from the artists’ own perspectives Art21 expanded in 2001 to becomes a PBS series, educational resource, archive, and history of contemporary art. The nonprofit initiative, which serves to raise the profile of major players in the world of contemporary art and to stimulate creativity among its viewers, premieres a new season every two years. Now with nearly twenty years of documentary material in its collection, it is an important (and eminently watchable) visual library on contemporary visual art and artists.
Among my favorite wood artists discussed in Art21 films:
A Chairy Tale (1957)
In this Oscar®-nominated short film animated by Evelyn Lambart, a chair refuses to be sat upon, and engages a young man in an amusing, affectionate dance. This virtuoso film is the result of a collaboration between Norman McLaren and Claude Jutra; musical accompaniment is by world-renowned sitarist Ravi Shankar and tabla master Chatur Lal. (9:54 mins.)
An American Craftsman – Wharton Esherick (2018)
The film explores the life and work of Wharton Esherick (1887–1970), a painter and furniture-maker who came of age during the Industrial Revolution. At a time when America was enamored with consumerism and mass production, Wharton moved to a rural farm outside Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and began making sculptural wood furniture. His creativity and facility in the material of wood was seemingly boundless and his influence on the American Studio Furniture movement, organic architecture, and sculpture is known worldwide. This short film on his career and legacy features testimonies by Elisabeth Agro, Nancy M. McNeil Associate Curator of American Modern and Contemporary Crafts and Decorative Arts, Philadelphia Museum of Art; Mark Sfirri, artist; William Whitaker, curator and collections manager of the Architectural Archives of the University of Pennsylvania Weitzman School of Design; and others. (41 mins.)
Crac! is an Oscar®-nominated animated short film written, directed, and produced by Frédéric Back. The story follows the experiences of a rocking chair, from its creation from a tree through its time as a member of a Canadian farming family. Through the life cycle of the chair, we witness the rapid development and industrialization of Montréal, from outpost town to cosmopolitan city. (15 mins.)
Il Tarlo (2017)
“Il Tarlo” is Italian for “the woodworm,” an insect that feeds on wood. The same word in slang is often used to communicate a persistent thought or an obsession. Software programming, bocce and chess gaming, restoration of old watches, and above all woodworking are among the many passions of the subject of this portrait, Francesco Diletti. Though some of these interests may appear very diverse, there is a thread that ties them all together: Francesco strives to “make the brain work” and in every endeavor, logic and calculation are fundamental operations. Shown at Cannes film festival in 2017, the film discusses the critical linkage between handwork and the functioning of the mind. (22:03 mins.)
Meet the Center’s Artistic Director
Jennifer-Navva Milliken is the artistic leader of the Center and is responsible for creating and executing the exhibition schedule, facilitating the annual Windgate ITE International Residency program, maintaining the integrity of the museum collection and research library, and overseeing the Center’s publishing and documentation activities.
Before coming to the Center in May 2018, she worked as an independent curator and consultant, following her tenure as the Curator of Craft and Design and the interim curatorial director at the Bellevue Arts Museum [BAM]. Before joining BAM, she established INTER ALIA projects, a curatorial enterprise based in Tel Aviv, Israel, and New York, NY. INTER ALIA fostered dialogues surrounding contemporary art, studio craft, design, and new media through site-specific pop-up exhibitions, gallery programming, writing, and advocacy for artists practicing in these fields. Milliken has lived in several locales including Jerusalem, New York, Seoul, and Tel Aviv. In addition to her time at BAM, she has been an embedded staff member at a number of cultural institutions and museums, among them the Museum of Arts & Design (MAD), New York, and The Israel Museum, Jerusalem.
She serves on the board of the Furniture Society and CraftNOW PHL and is a member of the International Council of Museums. Milliken remains in demand as a lecturer and writer due to her expertise in contemporary craft and design. She authored the exhibition catalogues The New Frontier: Young Designer-Makers in the Pacific Northwest (Bellevue Arts Museum, 2015) and WHY WOOD? Contemporary Practice in a Timeless Material (Collectors of Wood Art, 2016), as well as Humaira Abid: Taboo, which was released in 2018 in conjunction with the traveling exhibition Humaira Abid: Searching for Home — on view at the Center for Art in Wood.