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Graduating senior Yuk shows "Five Chairs" at Baker Library

Dartmouth College Office of Public Affairs • Press Release
Posted 06/11/09 • Media Contact: Latarsha Gatlin (603) 646-3661

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An idea that was inspired by boredom has resulted in a graceful, intricate display of artistic ability that has garnered its own exhibition.

Ryan Yuk is graduating with the Dartmouth Class of 2009 at the College’s commencement activities this Sunday. However his “Five Chairs” exhibition will remain on display at Baker-Berry Library until the end of the month. Five Chairs” is a collection of chairs and benches inspired by the images, landscape and architecture he saw while on an English Foreign Study Program in Glasgow, Scotland; his travels in and around Italy and even the iconic overlapping circles found in the logo of car manufacturer Audi.

Ryan Yuk
Ryan Yuk '09, stands among the chairs he crafted and has on display at Baker-Berry Library in his "Five Chairs" exhibition. Yuk spent over 200 hours making each chair in the Woodworking Shop located downstairs in the Hopkins Center for the Arts. (photo by Joseph Mehling '69)

Each piece in the “Five Chairs” collection took over 200 hours to make and was made of ash, white oak, cherry, walnut and poplar. “I stopped counting after 212,” Yuk said of his first piece, an S-shaped chair.

Yuk, an English major from Marietta, Ga., said he had been off-campus for two terms for the Glasgow trip and later an internship with Lehman Bros., when he wandered into the Hopkins Center Student Woodworking Shop in search of a project for his idle hands.

“I had never used a drill before,” he said with a laugh. “I was always interested in art and design, even before this exhibition. I’ve never had significant trouble thinking of ideas to make.”

To take on making a chair was particularly ambitious as chairs are considered one of the hardest pieces of furniture to make because of the need for even angles and joints. However Yuk remained undaunted. “Chairs are the hardest to make and that’s why I wanted to make them,” he said.

Yuk’s foray into furniture making did not come without its share of delays and do-overs. Staff in the woodworking shop pushed Yuk to draw detailed, two-dimensional sketches of his ideas so he could plan his work while Yuk was more content to create basic plans and fill in the details as he went along.

“My drawings were so sketchy and dodgy, they were so bad,” he said. “I got so impatient with two-dimensional materials like drawing on paper that I just started working with the wood, using a lot of ‘guesstimation.’”

Ryan Yuk '09 is featured in this video talking about how he made the chairs for his "Five Chairs" exhibition.

Every day since the spring of his junior year Yuk spent time in the woodworking shop. He says he spent four to eight hours a day for five days a week working on the chairs.

“I’d go in around 1 p.m. and not leave until 9 p.m.,” he said.

Around the time of his third piece, a long black bench with Asian overtones, Greg Elder, the woodworking shop supervisor, suggested he seek grant funding for his pieces. Last fall, he applied for grants through the Hopkins Center for the Arts and the Hood Museum and got funding. A stipulation of the grant was that the recipient must do a display that’s not in a gallery or museum. Yuk, a student employee at Baker-Berry, asked to show his work in the library.

“I thought of making either five or seven chairs and I ended up in the middle with six.” One of his chairs is part of a set and not featured in his exhibition but is on display in the Hopkins Center for the Arts.

After graduation, Yuk will work with Barclays Capital as an investment banking analyst but leaves behind his handmade project until June 30.

When asked what he was hoping to achieve with his chairs and exhibition, he says simply: “I tried to do something that would excite people. The inspiration for beauty and achievement come from art.”

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Last Updated: 9/14/09