There are only thirty-three total works in David Ellsworth's Solstice Series, a body of work that displays the artist's pioneering spirit. The series conveys the duality of order and chaos, creation and destruction, etc. Ellsworth notes, "These objects represent an effort to connect with one of the universal motivations for making art—the conundrum between chaos and order—and to manifest these concepts into primary forms turned on a lathe."

Many of the works are spheres that have a planetary feel, several others are inverted vessel forms where splits in the wood alter the shape further. They are all burned and painted with rows of descending-sized holes that feel like moon phase charts or depictions of orbits, several have carved, hieroglyphic details that look like an alien language. Avant-garde and ahead of their time, when Ellsworth made these, painting wood was frowned upon by many collectors who preferred the beauty and purity of the natural wood. This series shocked and confounded them at the time. The artist recalls, "They were simply too radical for the era when I and the rest of the turning world had been consumed for over a decade with burled woods."

David Ellsworth

2021 Visionary Award Recipient

David Ellsworth, master woodturner, describes his primary influences as “the energy and beauty of Native American ceramics, the architecture of the American Southwest with its textures, tones and monumentality, and the natural beauty of the material of wood – what I refer to as the most perfectly imperfect material to work with.” He is considered one of the most prominent woodturners in the world, famous for developing his elegant thin-walled hollow forms, which may even be as thin as 1/16th of an inch. Additionally, he created and marketed the bent turning tools needed to produce this vessel-like form. Ellsworth is also known for advancing the discipline of woodturning as a legitimate craft art form. The work of David Ellsworth is included in the permanent collection of over forty-three museums internationally, including the Renwick Gallery of the Smithsonian American Art Museum, the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, and the Victoria and Albert Museum in London.

Rago is privileged to participate in this exceptional event, celebrating these extraordinary artists and supporting one of our nation’s most important cultural institutions.

Suzanne Perrault

The Smithsonian Women's Committee Visionary Benefit Auction

Works Sold to Benefit The Smithsonian Institution

Rago is pleased to include The Smithsonian Women’s Committee Visionary Benefit Auction within our Modern Design sale on May 14th. This special section features works created by past and present Smithsonian Visionary Artists and by the winners of the new Smithsonian Women’s Committee Delphi Award.

The Smithsonian Visionary Award, established in 2014, is presented annually to artists who are deemed by curators in the field to have risen to the pinnacle in the world of sculptural arts and design, who have works in major museums, and who have demonstrated distinction, creativity, artistry, and, of course, vision in his or her respective medium.  

David Ellsworth and Michael Hurwitz, 2021 recipients of the Visionary Award, join the small but prestigious list of past recipients: Patti Warashina, Joyce J. Scott, Faith Ringgold, Dale Chihuly, Toots Zynsky, Wendell Castle, and Albert Paley.

All lots in the Visionary Benefit Auction are of the primary market, unless otherwise indicated. The auction raises funds to support projects and initiatives across the Smithsonian institution. All works will be shipped directly from the artist or the gallery.