No sofas at SOFA, but plenty of other decorative art | Bleader

No sofas at SOFA, but plenty of other decorative art

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Theres practical stuff for sale at SOFA, but youre only allowed to touch it if you wear gloves.
  • Aimee Levitt
  • There's practical stuff for sale at SOFA, but you're only allowed to touch it if you wear gloves.
There are no sofas for sale at SOFA Chicago, also known as Sculptural Objects Functional Art + Design, which opens today at Navy Pier. There is, however, a lot of decorative art of the sort you see in the lobbies of expensive hotels or in photos in high-end interior decorating magazines. If you have a large amount of disposable income, it's a good place to start your holiday shopping, especially for the people on your list who already have everything. I think plenty of people at last night's preview already have.

For the rest of us, it's just fun to look—probably more fun than last month's EXPO, because the stuff on display here is not Serious Art, intended to make you feel things. Most of it is charming and clever and endearing, because this is work you (or someone else) will have to live with. Does that mean it's not art? I think I may have brooded over this a bit too much because it was a dark and stormy night and because there weren't that many interesting hors d'oeuvres to distract me. I'm still not sure, but a lot of it was entertaining, and that's something.

Here are a few things I saw and liked:

Hollie Dilley did some cool stuff with dead birds.
  • Aimee Levitt
  • Hollie Dilley did some cool stuff with dead birds.

If I had an extra $5,600, I would totally get this flying pig sculpture by Catherine Labonte for my mom.
  • Aimee Levitt
  • If I had an extra $5,600, I would totally get this flying pig sculpture by Catherine Labonte for my mom.

There was some furniture, including this Dyno Desk by Allison Holden.
  • Aimee Levitt
  • There was some furniture, including this "Dyno Desk" by Allison Holden.

Everyone should have a life-sized wild mustang balancing on a two-wheeled cart.
  • Aimee Levitt
  • Everyone should have a life-sized wild mustang balancing on a two-wheeled cart.

And an artificial security guard to ward off crime.
  • Aimee Levitt
  • And an artificial security guard to ward off crime.

I did not like Steve Matson's "moving paintings," which look like the same sentimental crap churned out by Thomas Kinkade, but instead of light effects, the pictures change within the frame and there are ambient bird noises.

I have to say, though, that my favorite pieces on display were these marionette/Cornell box hybrids by Joan Rasmussen. Rasmussen is an artist from Atlanta who started out as a painter and then switched to sculpture 13 years ago because she wanted to learn how to make a decorative birdbath like the one a friend had made in a ceramics class. She decided she liked working in three dimensions, even though it took much longer. For Christmas a few years ago, her daughter bought her a gallon of blackboard paint and Rasmussen began mounting her sculptures on the wall and writing stories about them. "When I'm old and feeble and can't lift 500 pounds of clay anymore, I'll be a writer," she says.

Meanwhile, she's still working on her sculptures. "I love to do boxes," she says. "I like to have surprises in my work. I put secrets in the boxes. Sometimes I draw on the back. There's always a surprise."

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