Hot Forms Hot Colors: Vivian Beer

Finding power in sensual steel objects

“Current” designed 2004. Steel and automotive paint 28-inches long 33-inches wide 35-inches high.

Photo by Susan Laughlin

Are they sculpture or functional objects? Artist Vivian Beer says, "I dance somewhere in between those designations." Beer, who has a studio in Manchester, "re-mixes" the familiar - industrial materials - with inspiration from fashion, architecture and the mid-century furniture of Eero Saarinen. Out come twisting metal forms with sensuous curves that invite the touch. Her chairs shown here have anthropomorphic bulges in all the right places.

The simple forms may look like they were magically extruded or cut and shaped like origami, but compound curves are difficult to execute in steel. Working with computer-aided design programs helps plot the curves, while large jigs help with the scale. One of her latest public works is a "30-foot doodle" created in steel for the city of Cambridge, Mass.

Taking industry to craft, Beer's studio has many of the same tools an auto body shop would have to shape a fender. She uses auto body paint to give her work bright solid colors and relative permanence, and shares studio space with an antique auto restorer.

Her gallery and exhibition list is long and active. Most recently she exhibited in the 40 under 40: Craft Futures show at the Renwick Gallery in Washington. The Smithsonian purchased her piece for their permanent collection, making a major statement about her work.

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