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Dublin

Along  simple  lines

Putnam Gallery at the Dublin School:  Artists display furniture, abstract work

  • Siblings Anna and Tod Von Mertens are displaying their visual art and furniture designs at the Putnam Gallery at the Dublin School through Sept. 20.
  • Siblings Anna and Tod Von Mertens are displaying their visual art and furniture designs at the Putnam Gallery at the Dublin School through Sept. 20.
  • Siblings Anna and Tod Von Mertens are displaying their visual art and furniture designs at the Putnam Gallery at the Dublin School through Sept. 20.
  • Siblings Anna and Tod Von Mertens are displaying their visual art and furniture designs at the Putnam Gallery at the Dublin School through Sept. 20.
  • Siblings Anna and Tod Von Mertens are displaying their visual art and furniture designs at the Putnam Gallery at the Dublin School through Sept. 20.
  • Siblings Anna and Tod Von Mertens are displaying their visual art and furniture designs at the Putnam Gallery at the Dublin School through Sept. 20.
  • Siblings Anna and Tod Von Mertens are displaying their visual art and furniture designs at the Putnam Gallery at the Dublin School through Sept. 20.
  • Siblings Anna and Tod Von Mertens are displaying their visual art and furniture designs at the Putnam Gallery at the Dublin School through Sept. 20.
  • Siblings Anna and Tod Von Mertens are displaying their visual art and furniture designs at the Putnam Gallery at the Dublin School through Sept. 20.
  • Siblings Anna and Tod Von Mertens are displaying their visual art and furniture designs at the Putnam Gallery at the Dublin School through Sept. 20.
  • Siblings Anna and Tod Von Mertens are displaying their visual art and furniture designs at the Putnam Gallery at the Dublin School through Sept. 20.
  • Siblings Anna and Tod Von Mertens are displaying their visual art and furniture designs at the Putnam Gallery at the Dublin School through Sept. 20.
  • Siblings Anna and Tod Von Mertens are displaying their visual art and furniture designs at the Putnam Gallery at the Dublin School through Sept. 20.
  • Siblings Anna and Tod Von Mertens are displaying their visual art and furniture designs at the Putnam Gallery at the Dublin School through Sept. 20.
  • Siblings Anna and Tod Von Mertens are displaying their visual art and furniture designs at the Putnam Gallery at the Dublin School through Sept. 20.
  • Siblings Anna and Tod Von Mertens are displaying their visual art and furniture designs at the Putnam Gallery at the Dublin School through Sept. 20.

Siblings Anna and Tod Von Mertens grew up in a household that was all about making things. Their father, Carl, was always out in his woodshop and their mother, Francie, made pottery here and there. But both Francie and Carl considered themselves teachers. It is Anna and Tod that have taken their legacy to the level of artistry.

Carl Von Mertens worked as a teacher for 25 years at the Dublin School and left his mark on the place, from building the school’s library down to the end tables at the Putnam Gallery, where local artists like his two children can display their work. In a recent interview at the gallery, where Tod’s furniture designs and Anna’s visual artwork are currently on display, the two artists jokingly refer to the end table as their father’s contribution to the show. While both Anna and Tod graduated from ConVal High School, they still feel a connection to the Dublin School, and jumped at the opportunity to share their work there, they said.

Tod, a Hancock resident, and Anna, a Peterborough resident, each have four pieces on display at the Putnam Gallery through Sept. 20. Tod’s furniture designs are really fueled by a spirit of Yankee ingenuity, he said. Many of his furniture designs came about because he needed a piece of furniture for his house. Two of the pieces — a set of Shaker chairs and a coffee table — were made with an oxidized maple that’s a specialty of Tod’s. The maple is put through a chemical process that colors the wood, and works to enhance the grain and pull out textures that wouldn’t otherwise be visible. Both the design, like a lot of the designs he employs, are very simple, he said, influenced by Japanese and Shaker styles.

“I think of them as the first modernists,” Tod said the Japanese and Shakers . “Function is the primary design force. I think, historically in the world of furniture making, it started as a very utilitarian thing. You need a table, here’s a block of wood.”

French influence moved furniture away from pure function to become more ornate, noted Tod, but modern times have seen the move back to more simple, elegant designs . “Our lives are so crazy, cluttered and overstuffed that to pare it down has a certain peacefulness to it,” he said.

Anna, too, said her contributions to the gallery employ a simple design to convey a very large concept. Her hand-stitched cotton works represent the tree rings of a real piece of wood that dates back to the Roman Empire . Following the tree rings, she said, you can see the beginning of an extended drought that coincides with the empire’s fall.

“I think it’s a really beautiful idea to find the single most simple way to say something. It produces elegance, but also accessibility, because the idea is really put out there and able to be seen.”

She debated, Anna said, whether the way she got across her idea was too simple in this piece . The four sections of “The Roman Empire” work together to create one larger artwork — representing separate portions of the same tree. While the art is comprised only of simple white threads stitched onto black cotton, there is a larger idea being conveyed, she said.

“These tree rings act as both a record of human history and a record of the life of the tree. It’s interesting how those paths converge and how they separate. The drought has the same affect on the tree as the Roman Empire, but, on the other hand, the tree continues its existence independent of man. The back and forth between the two is interesting. Ultimately, I decided that the simplicity was what was needed to give that epic, monumental feel, and give that weight to the piece.”

Ashley Saari can be reached at 924-7172 ext. 235 or asaari@ledgertranscript.com. She’s on Twitter at @AshleySaari.

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