Classic Eames Design Meets Northwest Coast Art Posted July 23, 2015 by Ross Atwood

Matt LeBarre is an illustrator by trade, a long time collector of mid-century furniture, and a lover of Northwest Coast style art. In the true Eames fashion of always taking ones pleasures seriously, he has found a way to combine these interests into beautiful artworks.

It all started when LeBarre decided to create an image of an Eames 670 Lounge Chair as a totem pole. “The image turned out great and I knew I was onto something. Within several months, I had created a series of these ‘totems’ using other mid-century classics,” says LeBarre. On his website, you can find illustrations of Eames classics such as the 670 and LCW, as well as other mid-century classics such as the Noguchi Table, the Saarinen Womb Chair, and several others.

LCW+Seat+Bear+Mask+SMALLwebAfter LeBarre came across a vintage Eames 670 back panel on Ebay, his 2D illustrations evolved into something else. “I thought I would use that to see if this concept would work as a three dimensional piece of art. It was successful as well (I thought) so I started acquiring more Eames parts and expanding on the theme.”

He has since decorated other parts from vintage Eames plywood furniture including, an LCW seat back, a DCW seat distributary, and an entire LCW.

One of the most compelling pieces from LeBarre’s impressive collection of works is a totem design painted on panels from an Eames Molded Plywood Folding Screen. He said of this particular project: “It was the ideal piece of bent plywood to use as a totem. Its vertical dimensions were perfect for a classic totem design, but I wanted it to have more of a fifties look to it. I am a big fan of Alexander Girard and I let his sensibilities influence the graphics on this piece.”

Charles&RayTotem_photos-11Designed in 1946, the Molded Plywood Screen was one of Charles and Ray’s numerous contributions to the world of molded plywood. They are still available today through both Herman Miller and Vitra.

The screens elegantly divide rooms, create a bit of privacy, or serve as a beautiful backdrop to other furniture and objects. They are sturdy enough to stand on their own, light enough to move with ease, and flexible enough to fold up and tuck away.

LeBarre felt it only right to incorporate the screens’ creators into his work of art. “I really wanted to have a visual connection to Charles and Ray in this piece, so they just had to be in the narrative of this totem. So I had the ‘spirit animals’ clasp onto their likenesses.”

How did this unique mash up of different subjects come about? According to the artist, he thought of the concept while seated in the comfort of his Eames Lounge Chair. “Why not create art that combined two of my fondest things: Northwest Coast Style art and Mid-Century Modern furniture? The simplicity of the furniture designed in the era of modernism seemed to have forms in common with the art of the First Nations people: the curved plywood of an Eames LCW, the negative space formed from an Arne Jacobsen Swan Chair, the graphic silhouette of a Noguchi Table. To me, the two worlds just seemed to make sense together. And so a new mash-up was born: Mid-Century Totems.”

You can view more of Matt LeBarre’s work by clicking HERE!