ART REVIEW: "Jon Brooks: A Collaboration with Nature"-Currier Museum of Art, Manchester, NH

I was recently in Manchester, New Hampshire, and I had the opportunity to visit the Currier Museum, which, in addition to a strong collection of American art from many periods of time, consistently hosts several small but excellent traveling exhibits. The display of decorative, nature-inspired furniture by Jon Brooks that I had the pleasure of seeing was no exception. Jon Brooks, a native of New Hampshire, specializes in unique furniture that seems as though you could find it in nature—but a surreal, finished sort of nature. Nature is his inspiration, and he sculpts it into chairs that look like they are carved out of the sides of trees and benches made of beautiful, polished, pure wood, finding the piece inside the tree like Michelangelo found his figures inside stone slabs. Now, I know almost nothing about furniture-as-art, especially in this modern, unique manner, so this exhibit was a learning experience for me as an art lover.

The exhibit displayed odd, unique chairs, benches and tables as well as abstract sculptures of all shapes and sizes. The furniture was often just fashioned out of creatively arranged or carved wood pieces, occasionally painted in bright, standout colors. The furniture seemed to be intended to be sculptures of artistic merit than functional pieces for everyday use—they were unique, abstract and probably not very comfortable. A highlight was the chair-apparatus called “One Voice”, which consisted of two chairs, back-to-back, with the backs of the chairs fading into legs of a tall dog-shaped structure.

This sort of whimsical piece is what characterizes Brooks’ work. There were low tables with many little wavy insect legs that appeared to be in motion, giving me the impression of a centipede, benches that curved and turned like rivers, and the highlight “True Loves Blue” (reproduced below), a sort of loveseat bench, built for two, with the sides of the bench supported by blue humanoid figures whose arms faded into the back of the bench, creating an easily romantic atmosphere for the lovers for whom the bench may have been intended for use.


Brooks uses several techniques and patterns that ran throughout the exhibit, creating a sense of unity. A recurring theme that was present in several of his pieces was the ladder-like motif, which, according to the artist, represents a sort of never-ending ascension and descent. I found this idea interesting and was pleased to see how it was expressed in several of his furniture pieces, mostly in the backs of chairs.

Another highlight was the majestic throne he carved in 1970, which emerges from a block of glowing, unpainted wood that seemed to be carved from a vibrant living tree. The wood is saturated with glorious natural colors and immediately caught my eye from among all the exhibit pieces.

A portion of the exhibit was devoted to pictures of Brooks’ home and studio, which he designed himself in the same whimsical, surreal manner in which he creates his art—his is a house one would think only existed in a fairytale, an oddly-shaped, brightly colored cabin tucked away into the surrounding wilderness.

As someone who doesn’t know much about furniture, this exhibit was extremely interesting, showing how something as seemingly ordinary and utilitarian as furniture can, with the right creative mind, be made into works of unusual, unique art. I (and my staff who attended) enjoyed this exhibit greatly! For my fans in the area, I highly recommend seeing it.

(Author's note: Like what you read here?  Check out my review of the museum itself, which can be found here.)


  1. Excellent summary of what we saw! I agree that the "True loves Blue" was a highlight of the exhibit. I just really loved the way Brooks created functional art out of nature. For anyone who is interested in this type of work, you should check out this artist even if you cannot get to New Hampshire!


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