Dennis Shaffner has a lot in common with birds—that is, he is very much at home when it comes to nests. The artist, whose nature-inspired creations are in permanent collections at the Smithsonian (after gracing the Clintons’ Christmas tree in 1993), Glenmore Distilleries in Owensboro and the Evansville Museum of Arts and Science, has been weaving reeds—mainly rattan and honeysuckle from his own garden—for more than twenty-five years—and hasn’t had to look far for ideas. “Bernheim Forest has inspired most of my nature-based subject matter throughout the years,” says the retired art teacher. The resulting forms, called birdNEST and garden light BASKETball spheres, will be on display tomorrow, Sunday, May 2nd, at Lynn’s Paradise Café in the second annual Frenzy at the Finish event. Along with the nests, Shaffner—who has long worked with fabric, creating oil and acrylic paintings on untreated canvas—will also unveil a line of modified unisex ties designed to hold basic necessities such as money, credit cards and, of course, an iPod.
The quirky café is the perfect fit for the Shaffner’s works—and there are negotiations underway for a larger woven light piece for the restaurant, “inspired by something [restaurant P.R. rep] Patty Schnatter admired in a Paris design show,” he says. “Very nest-like, but something [that] another creature other than a bird would build.”
Darting from medium to medium is part of the joy for Shaffner, who also is very conscious of the role art plays in the fabric of the most basic pursuit of a civilization: peace. “I met John and Yoko while visiting New York City in the summer of 1976—the day after John got his green card back [after having it revoked in the aftermath of his high-profile antiwar stance],” he says. Shaffner went on to make a Manhattan-inspired “toybox” for nine-month-old Sean Lennon, created using Japanese joinery carpentry techniques and vividly colored satins and kite prints. Thirty-four years later, Ono remains a treasured friend and correspondent. “I have always supported Yoko's efforts for world peace, which she tirelessly continues around the world with IMAGINEPEACE.com,” her art-driven movement that seeks to continue the vision that she and husband John Lennon shared.
Spring is a particularly peaceful time at the Shaffner household, and creation ever abounds; nothing is wasted. “I'm enjoying three nesting families of birds in my garden and watching cardinals, robins and one mourning dove nesting in the honeysuckle, which I use for some basket forms after boiling the vine,” he says.
Frenzy at the Finish will run from 9:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. at Lynn’s Paradise Café, 984 Barret Avenue in the Highlands. The event will also feature painter and jewelry designer Marissa Garcia, live music and a Native American astrological card reader. For directions or more information, call 583-3447.
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Photo: Courtesy Dennis Shaffner