Inspired by Midcentury: Wendy Maruyama


Michele Racioppi


Docomomo US staff


Newsletter July 2019, Inspired by Midcentury
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Inspired by Midcentury: Wendy Maruyama is part 5 of the 5-part series featured in our July 2019 Special Edition newsletter.

Furniture maker, artist and educator Wendy Maruyama has been making innovative work for 40 years and has exhibited her work nationally and internationally. She is one of the first two women to graduate with a Masters in furniture making from Rochester Institute of Technology. While her early work combined ideologies of feminism and traditional craft objects, her newer work moves beyond the boundaries of traditional studio craft and into the realm of social practice.

The work she created for a recent exhibition drew inspiration from Anni Albers' work as a weaver and textile artist as well as her experience facing discrimination at the Bauhaus.

When I received an invitation to create work for a Bauhaus-inspired furniture exhibition to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the legendary school of design, I took it as a new challenge.  I had just completed two bodies of advocacy-based work (The wildLIFE Project and Executive Order 9066) and was quite ready to go back to exploring furniture once again. 

It was a challenge because I find Bauhaus to be so iconic that it is ubiquitous in all shapes and forms in terms of its influence on architecture and design, to the point that it is nearly boring.  Coincidentally, I had just discovered the Anni Albers exhibition that took place at the Tate Modern in London last year. 

I consider myself to be a colorist with my work and so I was naturally drawn to Anni Albers' textiles.  I was also intrigued with the difficulties that women had within the Bauhaus movement: while its manifesto of 1919 welcomed “everyone without regard to age or sex,” that Gropius insisted that it would not discriminate between “the beautiful and the strong sex,” women were discouraged from participating in disciplines such as metalworking, glass, or furniture design and were instead directed into what was considered to be the more feminine subjects, such as textiles, ceramics, and interior design. This drew some parallels to my own experiences in my endeavor to be trained as a furniture maker and woodworker in the 1970's, which was a completely male-dominated field. 

I have utilized a number of tambours in my work in the past. These are flexible doors made up of many strips and are glued to a canvas backing. I chose to use this as a springboard, and instead of using continuous strips, I cut them into different lengths so as to emulate the patterns one would see in weaving. Instead of using them in furniture, I created panels that were placed in frames. The frames themselves served as color-fields on their on, and are very much a part of the work.