Skin Deep: Three Masters of American Inlaid Furniture
Milwaukee Art Museum, November 22, 2003 – March 2, 2003

For centuries, furniture makers have used the techniques of inlay and marquetry to create pictures in wood. The difference between the two techniques relates to the "skin" of the furniture to be decorated—one technique involves cutting into the surface of the wood, while the other creates a new surface. To create inlay, a design is carved into the furniture and filled with variously colored woods. Marquetry consists of many pieces of wood fitted together to create a solid sheet, like a jigsaw puzzle, which is then glued to the furniture. Like carving and painting, both inlay and marquetry do more than decorate a piece of furniture—they serve as the vehicle for individual expression.

This exhibition explores the lives and work of three craftsmen spanning two centuries, each of whom employed inlay or marquetry to embellish their furniture. Nathan Lombard (1777-1847), Peter Glass (1824-1901), and Silas Kopf (b. 1949) are considered to be masters of woodworking, but all are also categorized as outsiders of one kind or another: folk, rural, or avant garde. The work of all three men was made outside of the economic mainstream, away from centers of high-style. Yet Lombard, Glass, and Kopf took advantage of their places on the margins to create furniture of uniqueness and distinction.