Brattleboro artist Ruth Shafer's soft sculpture show, The Weight, will open at the Southern Vermont Arts Center in Manchester on Friday, July 22, from 5 to 7 p.m. It will be part of the SVAC's exhibition, “Dwell: Home Is Where The Art Is,” featuring four women artists whose work centers on themes of domesticity and belonging.
Shafer was awarded a Creation Grant by the Vermont Arts Council in 2021. Creation Grants support artists in creating new work, with $4,000 awarded to both established and emerging artists for time spent creating new work, to purchase materials, or to rent equipment or space for the process.
Shafer uses recycled materials and humor to explore the power of domesticity and the body at home. Her work has been shown in Brattleboro at the Harmony Collective, Hermit Thrush Brewery, and the Hooker-Dunham Theater.
The central sculpture of the show, SlipCover, was made from two matching armchairs and a duct-tape replica of a friend's body. It features a seated figure, both concealed and defined by an elaborate slipcover. By using the female form, fabric, and familiar design elements, Shafer's work “is both appealing and unsettling,” states a news release.
“It occurred to me that furniture and the female body have a lot in common,” Shafer said in her artist statement. “Physically, there are arms, legs, a strong back and comfortable cushions to lean back on. Culturally, they have a specific place of service in the home. I created this show both to celebrate the female form and make the viewer pull up short at the ways women and domestic laborers are conflated with objects of service and comfort.
“It sounds fancy to say that I've intermingled the female form with furniture to explore the dualities of domesticity. It is also true to say I made pillows with breasts because it's funny, and I think people will like them.”
You can see more of Shafer's work on her website, ruthshafer.com, and on her Instagram, @rruthshafrr. The SVAC show will be open from July 22 to Sept. 11. SVAC is open Tuesday through Sunday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., closed Mondays.