In 1943, Antonin Raymond had Nakashima and his family released from Minidoka by giving Nakashima work on his chicken farm in New Hope, PA. Nakashima wasn’t allowed to work with Raymond as an architect because the firm was working on government projects related to the war effort. Instead, he worked the farm. About his time as a farm laborer, Nakashima said "After a year of doing general farm work, it was quite clear to me that chickens and I were not compatible." And so again, Nakashima built furniture from found objects like old doors and lumber scraps. When the Nakashimas were finally released from Raymond’s protective custody in 1945, Nakashima went back to work for himself. With no money, he would go to the lumber yard and get the cheapest pieces he could, often “off-cuts” from quarter sawn boards.
At first, the methods Nakashima developed for highlighting the flaws in the wood in his pieces were off-putting to buyers. But as his work gained a following, the way that Nakashima created beauty from imperfection brought a premium. The butterfly joint became a defining feature of his work, and the “live edge” of unfinished boards evolved into style of its own that has inspired untold numbers of followers.
Life presented George Nakashima with both opportunities and challenges, and he found a way to channel them all into his striking designs. Just like the wood he saved from the scrap pile, no experience in Nakashima's life was wasted. Instead, detours and bends in the road simply became part of his beautiful path.
Below, works by Nakashima from our previous auctions.
Modern Art & Design
Thursday, August 19th