Feast Your Eyes : Art Is the Main Course on Tables That Offer Some Unique Settings

Special to The Times

When artists create dining room tables that reflect their art, you get some pretty arresting tables. Take Jim Morphesis' surreal, black-draped environment with skull place mats and gold napkin rings. Or minimalist Tony DeLap's long, vertical wood sculpture suspended from the ceiling over the table. Or playful Italo Scanga's Italian-inspired, hand-painted tablecloth and large ceramic Italian cypress centerpiece.

And we haven't even gotten to the table with moss growing on it.

Tables created by 20 artists for the Laguna Art Museum's fund-raiser "Feast on Art" earlier this month were full of surprises.

Richard White created a table of welded steel, pine, fir and ceramic with designs incised in the wood. Peter Shire made a surfboard table from steel, aluminum, wood and enamel, while Bret Price designed a table using painted steel and concrete. Other artists designed the dishes, centerpieces and linens.

The artists' tables and their variety were a good reminder to those not-so-artistic that anything goes today in table settings.

It's more fun to mix and match than to stick to the boring and predictable. Collections can be brought out and put on the table; platters can be used as dishes; sculptures can be centerpieces; place mats can be made from lace doilies or pieces of wood, and napkins can be spread out and used as table runners.

Well-known Laguna Beach ceramist Marlo Bartels' table was made of cement inlaid with both handmade tiles and found ones. He added interest by putting moss and black pebbles in the center. At home, a shallow dish with moss and pebbles or with camellias floating in water could create a similar feeling for a centerpiece. This table could be used inside or out; in fact, Bartels' work includes the bench in front of the Laguna Art Museum and a drinking fountain there.

French-born Serge Armando took a corner of the room and made it come alive with primary colors. His porcelain plates in cobalt blue and yellow, utensil holders with small glass tubes for flowers, hand-painted tablecloth and serigraph napkins--with the addition of his paintings on the walls--made a complete environment.

Armando is a master of the use of color, but his idea of a table setting that plays off the artwork in the room is one that is easy to borrow. Taking the main colors in a painting in the dining room (or bringing in one from another room in the house) gives a good palette to work from when designing a centerpiece or a table decor.


Newport Beach artist Mary Anne Turley-Emett's table was a little world all its own. She used her "Spirit House" and chairs of high-fired stoneware with some of the chairs doubling as place card holders and added candleholders that looked like little wishing wells and low-fired stoneware service plates.

Turley-Emett coordinated her sculptures with Carolyn Machado's antique batik textiles. Machado used batik on vintage fabrics to get the rich look that goes so well with the stoneware.

This table is a good example of using collections to decorate a table. Battersea boxes, ceramic animals, glass figurines and other small objects can be clustered on a table to create conversation pieces. The objects don't have to be original art such as Turley-Emett's to be interesting.

Phyllis Green of Los Angeles had fun with her table setting. Hers was bright and colorful, with place mats created from swatches of blue lace between pieces of plastic bordered with orange and black fringe. Green took creativity to humorous heights by taking plastic wine goblets in various colors and gluing feathers to them. The goblets immediately looked party-ready.

The natural stone sculpture by Los Angeles artist Woods Davy made a very dramatic statement on a table. The stones appeared to be suspended in air, and their different textures and colors made them fascinating. The sculpture made a perfect conversation piece.

And what higher praise than conversation is there for a table setting?

For more information about the artists and purchase of their works, call the Laguna Art Museum at (714) 494-8971. Although the tables are no longer on view, "Taste of Art" is scheduled to become an annual event.

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