Elizabeth R Agro
Curator of Modern and Contemporary Craft and Decorative Arts, Philadelphia Museum of Art
“Pivots & Rows is an exceptional example of Sharbaugh’s skill in marquetry, this sideboard showcases his deep knowledge of historical furniture techniques and forms. This object is the first example by his hand to be accessioned into the PMA collection of American studio furniture. Given the growing interest in the study of contemporary craft and the work that is being done in revisiting the contribution of studio woodworking, the Museum is pleased to add this important example.
Knowing the significance of Sharbaugh’s work within studio woodworking circles, it is fundamental for the Museum to collect important examples to fully represent the movement. This strengthens PMA’s craft collection, permitting the Museum to tell a more complete story about use of marquetry within the field of contemporary American studio furniture.”
Spring/Summer Bulletin, 2011, The Museum of Arts & Design
“For its collection MAD recently acquired Chuck Sharbaugh’s extraordinary Tribute cabinet on a stand. This tour-de-force work of marquetry arose out of the Michigan-based furniture maker’s interest in history. In seventeenth-century Europe, large, intricately inlaid rectangular cabinets, supported by architectural stands, were popular furnishings. They typically featured a pair of hinged doors, opening to reveal a grid of inlaid drawers. While inspired by this imposing form, Sharbaugh has produced an utterly modern piece of personal narrative, whose stately façade is contrasted by a quite literally soaring interior.
By selecting a wide variety of wood veneers, both domestic species like walnut, holly, cedar, and birch, along with such exotics as purpleheart, padauk, makore, and lacewood, Sharbaugh assembled an exceptional palette of distinctive colors for his virtuosic inlay. The cabinet front gives no hint of this, as the rich brown veneer of the doors is embellished only with rings of golden wood. Inside, however, comes a surprise: an elaborate inlay depicting the interior of a passenger cabin in a commercial airplane. The motif on the large central drawer is of a plane flying overhead, while the fronts of the 12 small drawer’s feature aerial views of various urban and rural sites, each associated with an individual who has had an important influence on the artist’s life.
The acquisition of this inventive work is significant on several levels. Since the Museum’s founding in 1956, studio furniture has been an active area of collecting. Sharbaugh’s cabinet on a stand speaks likewise to the continuing and pervasive presence of history as a source for new concepts and material uses. And in the precision and intricacy of the inlays, the piece documents how different techniques can profoundly transform materials.”
John B Henry III
Director, Flint Institute of Arts
“Chuck Sharbaugh incorporates the Renaissance technique of marquetry in producing sculptural, contemporary studio furniture. There are two essential components to each work: the architecture of the cabinet and the intricate narrative scenes created with an unparalleled marquetry technique. Chuck’s latest work is based on the “box on stand” collector’s cabinet design—an assembly of drawers on top of a stand of legs. Within this discipline, Chuck designs the formal structure to compliment the industrial references in the subjects depicted in the marquetry. His subjects are derived from the design elements of the man-made industrial landscape and the quilt-like patterns of the earth, as seen from satellite photographs, and when such everyday imagery is depicted in hyper-observed designs of marquetry, his cabinets achieve the status of high art. By capturing our attention with astounding craftsmanship, these images transform the mundane into something infinitely interesting and do what art does best—change the way we see our world.”
Hon AIA and founding director of the Gregg Museum of Art & Design, North Carolina State University
A similar continuity between what has been and what may be is one motive for Chuck Sharbaugh’s decision to focus his furniture design and production on the chest or cabinet on a frame which also has a long history. His work, “Across America”, takes the potentially static cabinet on frame and adapts the 20th century to its form. The cabinet is shaped like a train car; the frame is a track and trestle. The parquetry wheels on the closed exterior doors allude to the interior design but nothing quite prepares the viewer for the extravagant and energetic marquetry scenes that are revealed when the cabinet is opened. Each door has four panels and the two drawers have 8 panels each. When open Sharbaugh’s airborne images of highways, interchanges, bridges, and industrial sites are revealed. These images are produced from photographs he made while delivering furniture. Using Photoshop and Photo Illustrator he creates the marquetry patterns. From them he can crop, juxtapose and abstract images from his visual library. The panels are riveting. The marquetry introduces a new reality made of wood that alludes to, among other graphic forms, Google Earth, cartoons, and graphic novels to name a few. Opening these techniques to American studio furniture in the early 21st century is a challenge but one that is richly suggestive. It is encouraging to see work like Sharbaugh’s making a link to the inlaid furniture of centuries ago.
The Philadelphia Inquirer
December 2011, Victoria Donohoe
“Chuck Sharbaugh of Michigan deservedly won first prize for Across America, a large wooden cabinet that effectively evokes a sense of wanderlust and awe, its rugged exterior on a wooden railroad trestle contrasting with an interior using marquetry to portray quilt-like patterns of highway interchange.”
Infinity Art Gallery
M. M. DUPAY, Art Instructor, Bowling Green State University
“Chuck Sharbaugh’s ACROSS AMERICA is a visually compelling and complex piece, carefully crafted to actively encourage us to look more closely at our constructed landscape. While the cabinet’s exterior reminds me of a scaffold bridge not unlike an almost art deco version of the covered bridges near my rural childhood home, the intimate details revealed within ask us to consider the idea of bridged connections more fully. Here, we are pulled into seeing overpasses and networks of cloverleaf intersections from the beneath and high above. We are either dwarfed by their soaring curves above us or intrigued by the net they form in the distance below. Either way, the straightforward crossing journey of the exterior bridge form is made much more complex. Evoking the function of cabinets of curiosities, this bridge cabinet also contains relics of the landscape we’ve destroyed in creating these concrete overpass connections. By using many pieces of wood veneer fused into twenty-four single miniature architectural landscapes, Sharbaugh has created a memorial to the trees that had once been there.”
Curator Contemporary Arts Center, Cincinnati, Ohio
“Chuck Sharbaugh’s treatment of wood is ostensibly more reverent upon first approach, but while he maintains an ecumenical grace to his material and craft his subject matter upon the tabletop suggests a more mysterious, somewhat disorienting flight.”