About 100 people attended Booth Western Art Museum's Art for Lunch program Wednesday afternoon to hear father and son duo Philip and Matthew Moulthrop discuss the ins and outs of woodturning.
"Nature provides the palette for what we're doing," said Matthew Moulthrop, who has art on display at the Carter Center in Atlanta, the Carnegie Museum of Art in Pittsburgh and the Contemporary Museum in Hawaii. "Woodturning is a revelation process. We're uncovering, and you can't go back. Ultimately, the piece will only be as good as what we start with."
His father Philip has pieces in the permanent collections at the High Museum of Art in Atlanta, the Renwick Gallery of the National Museum of American Art in Washington, D.C. and the Olympic Museum in Switzerland.
Woodturning runs in the family. Philip's father and Matthew's grandfather Edward Moulthrop, has had work displayed at the Vatican, the Olympics and the Museum of Modern Art in New York.
Philip and Matthew, both from Marietta, narrated a "virtual tour" video of their studio while attendees enjoyed chicken-fried steak and mounds of brown gravy-topped mashed potatoes. They fielded questions from the audience, many of them seasoned woodworkers themselves, throughout the presentation.
Philip discussed his lathe and bandsaw techniques while Matthew gave attendees the skinny on their best practices for wood treatment — sometimes, he said he has to let his material soak in a polyethylene glycol mixture for upwards of nine months before reshaping can begin.
He said he asks loggers and other individuals who work in forestry to send him leads.
"We don't go out with a chainsaw into national forests," he said. "We have tree cutters, who are out there in their regular jobs ... we tell them if they come across such-and-such a tree, or you see this or something unusual, call us up."
The two said they've worked with everything from poplar to mimosa to chocolate cedar — they even put together a poison ivy vine coffee table. Matthew said he's also created works of art out of wood taken from Harry Truman's White House and buildings constructed in the 1800s.
"If you cut a tree and if it's just pure, plain white, that's not something we're interested in," Philip said. "We're interested in something that has colors or some kind of pattern caused by fungus that gets in there."
Their lecture touched upon the many hard sciences behind their artwork, including physics and chemistry. Matthew explained how altering the pH balance of wood could turn otherwise unremarkable logs cherry red and lima bean green.
"It's kind of like highlighting hair," he remarked.
Continuing, he estimated that 75 percent to 80 percent of their work was dedicated to the finishing process — sanding, coating and polishing their art to completion.
Although woodturning has been around since ancient Egypt, Matthew said the kinds of bowl-like decorative woodworkings he and his father create have only come into fashion in the art world fairly recently.
Cartersville residents will have an opportunity to see much more of the Moulthrops' work in the not-too-distant future. Museum executive director Seth Hopkins announced Booth will host a special Moulthrop exhibit in 2020.
"It will be about 40 pieces of the Moulthrops' work. We're hoping it will be roughly half and half between Phillip and Matt, but also some older pieces from Ed, the grandfather who started this whole thing," he said. "They are collected worldwide and have a lot of very important collectors ... they have developed quite a following, so we're very hopeful to have a lot of those people come from around the world to see the exhibition."
Keeping with the museum's motif, the Moulthrops will create artwork from wood imported from the Western United States for the exhibit.
"The difficult part is locating it and getting it shipped," Philip said. "A lot of times the shape may depend on what the wood looks like - it's not always going to be the same globe shape."
Hopkins said he is optimistic Booth will be able to add a few pieces from the temporary exhibit to the museum's permanent collection. The museum, however, has already acquired one piece of Matthew's woodturning art, which will be auctioned off at Booth's For the Love of Art gala scheduled for Feb. 24.