October Artist – Maura Schaffer
Maura Schaffer is an artist whose love of art was instilled in her at a young age by her grandmothers, and she has been sketching, painting, working with clay, and creating sculptures ever since. Her sculptural work focuses on the dinner table as well as other furniture as a means of expressing ideas about human relationships. She also creates sculptural relief works that integrate videos of rushing, trickling and falling water that are inspired by Impressionist painters. Another series that she has been working on is a series of taco relief works that add color and humor to her repertoire. Her paintings focus on and capture the illusive qualities of smoke, shadows and water inspired by her hikes in the Texas Hill Country.
Maura received a Bachelor’s degree in Interior Design from Southern Illinois University – Carbondale and began her professional career as an Interior Designer working in architecture firms in Chicago and St. Louis. She began the transition to a career as an artist at Southern Illinois University – Edwardsville, receiving a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in Ceramics with a minor in Weaving. She completed her Master of Fine Arts degree at Florida State University where she began working with sculpture and installation. Maura has taught at Purdue University, Florida State University, Tallahassee Community College, and Texas State University as well as at community art centers since 1998. She is a founder and President of the Cuernavaca Arts Cooperative and has coordinated and taught for the past six years at the annual Cuernavaca Art Camp as well as the Bee Cave Art Foundation Art Camp. Currently she is the art guide and coordinator at Alpha School in Austin teaching her craft to young artists.
While teaching she has remained active as an artist and participates in numerous national and international shows where she exhibits her sculpture, installations and paintings. Recent solo exhibitions include Ensoul at the Dougherty Arts Center in Austin, Texas, which featured sculptural table installations along with paintings depicting a myriad of tablescapes; A Collection of Works at The Hive Art Center in Bee Cave, Texas, which showcased a retrospective of sculptural works in addition to new wall reliefs and paintings; Commune at the Georgetown Art Center in Georgetown, Texas; and Nourish at Abilene Christian University’s Downtown Gallery in Abilene, Texas. She has also participated in the EAST and WEST Austin Studio Tours and has shown in multiple group shows including Unforeseen at CAMIBAart; A Picture is Worth 1000 Words at the Laura Bush Community Library; People’s Gallery in Austin City Hall in Austin, Texas; Profusion in the Void at Artspace111 in Fort Worth, Texas; The Soul of America at Georgetown Art Center in Georgetown, Texas; and Weird Out West at The Hive Art Center in Bee Cave, Texas. Maura is currently represented by The Russell Collection Gallery.
ARTIST STATEMENT: ENSOUL
For Schaffer, the dining table and all that it embodies is pivotal to our shared psyche and experience. The dining table is more than an ordinary domestic object—it is a symbol of all that is good about humanity. People in every culture gather around something in order to facilitate a sense of togetherness. Functioning as a tool for sustenance, conversation and ultimately unification, the tables sculpted by the artist are imbued with a soul. Schaffer has ensouled each piece giving them their own essence and aura.
The tables form a gathering point for people of all walks of life thus granting everyone a rightful seat at the table. Wire rings and gold thread hovering over the center of the tables create a type of centrifugal force in which thoughts and ideas converge and mingle with one another. The table is a bridge between family members, between communities, and within ourselves. It can help us reach out and create acceptance across race, class, politics, and geography.
Like the installations of tables and chairs by artist Robert Therrien, Schaffer’s work imparts a corporeal sensation that addresses how we interact with these ordinary furnishings, however hers are on a more life-size scale. Therrien’s exaggerates the size of recognizable furnishing while Schaffer puts her own spin on the design. The furniture is whimsically attenuated, reminiscent of Elizabeth Murray’s stylized paintings of household items. Employing a wire frame she covers these in mesh fabric so that the furniture appears diaphanous and lissome.
In the Table Paintings series, Schaffer depicts a myriad of tablescapes from a pristinely set table with fine china and arranged flowers to a table with a spilled glass of milk and a mischievous cat lapping up the contents. It is through these grayscale vignettes with hints of color that we are shown the quotidian only serving to further the theme of universality. Moreover, the Table Paintings series presents an aspect of voyeurism that was previously nonexistent in the artist’s work. Interestingly, these images of tablescapes are taken directly from scenes found in the homes of the artist’s friends, offering insight into everything from their socioeconomic status to their taste in design.
Ensoul is an exhibition about the human spirit and how the table can aid in unifying us as a whole. Removing the figure from her work, Schaffer allows the viewer to step into the scene with the tables, place settings and common objects so that they can bring their own shared experiences and ideas to the installation.
For more information about Maura, visit her website. To view her abstract and topographical paintings, visit the Russell Collection Gallery in Austin, Texas. To see Maura’s table sculptures, please contact her directly to schedule an appointment at firstname.lastname@example.org.