Sitting pretty at Morris Arboretum
May 31, 2012By Peter Crimmins
Photos by Nathaniel Hamilton
Mississippi Fred McDowell's song "I Wish I Was In Heaven Sittin' Down" has found a near-perfect partner in the Morris Arboretum.
Ninety-two acres of winding paths, bubbling fountains, and expansive meadows preserved and maintained in Chestnut Hill cry out for places to sit. All summer, the arboretum will celebrate taking a load off.
Seventy-three Adirondack chairs -- those low-slung, wooden deck chairs often seen poolside at resorts -- were given to artists who each painted, carved, dismantled or sometimes destroyed and completely reimagined an outdoor chair.
Eight are on the porch of the Woodmere Art Museum, while the rest are scattered throughout the grounds of the Morris Arboretum. Each chair was placed in a spot that best complements its redesign. A pair of chairs called "Leapfrog, Dragonfly Afternoon" by Karen Love Cooler were placed by the a small lake populated with swans and dragonflies.
On the other side of the lake, tucked into the shade of a leafy oak tree, a young mother discreetly nursed her baby in Donna Usher's "Meditation Chair."
Sitting comfortably in a florid Adirondack with a sweeping view of the lushly verdant valley below, programs coordinator Michelle Conners says some artists, such as Sarah Tortora of the University of Pennsylvania, made the Adirondack impossible to sit in.
"It sort of looks like a torture chair," said Conners. "It's put together in a different way than a normal Adirondack chair, but using all the same pieces."
Visitors are encouraging to wander and discover the paired chairs. Paul Pierlott, a regular at the Arboretum, discovered Tim Lewis' "Symbio," two chairs bolted together, face-to-face.
"Those are neat. They're comfortable, but they're hard to get out of," said Pierlott, taking pictures of his kids in the chairs. "That's a metaphor for a lot of things in life."
As relaxing as most of the chairs are, they are competitive. The winner, "Tropical AdironDeco" by woodworker Murrie Gayman, has the back slates replaced with planks hand-carved into the shapes of tropical flowers. Most of the chairs are for sale, but will remain in place until Labor Day.