Images courtesy of Renee Scott Photography

January 15, 2022 through April 17, 2022

Atavistic Memories: The Studio Furniture of Sam Forrest explores the American Studio Furniture Movement through the hands of furniture maker Sam Forrest (1936–2021). Bringing together furniture, painting, and archives, the exhibition considers the intellectual statements of an artisan outside the constraints of the past and the advanced technology of the twentieth century. For Sam, his craft was a quality or state of being in which he permitted his subconscious to reveal itself through skillful woodwork.

Forrest devoted more than fifty years to handcrafted woodworking, from household objects to church altars. Showcased are more than forty works locally sourced from family, friends, collectors, and Sam’s last home, the Haiku (Hyco) House, in Mathews, Virginia. Atavistic Memories: The Studio Furniture of Sam Forrest encapsulates the spiritual tenacity and structural process of a man engaged in the delight and dilemma of the resistance of wood.

Read the feature in Richmond Magazine‘s River City Roundup 

Read “The Powerful Furniture of a Charming Designer” in Richmond Bizsense

Read “A Life in Wood” in Style Weekly

Watch the Virginia This Morning on CBS6 

The Branch Museum is proud to bring together a panel of furnituremakers, curators, and museum professionals in a conversation moderated by James Zemaitis, Curator and Director of Relations at R & Company, an expert in 20th century design.

The panelists will discuss Forrest, his work, and their own in relation to a lineage of renowned furnituremakers from Wharton Esherick (d. 1970) to designers of our time, all of whom push the envelope of wood technique and craft. 

Zemaitis will be joined by the founder of the VCUarts wood program, Alan Lazarus; Assistant Professor of wood in Craft/Material Studies at VCU Scott Braun; and the Director of Interpretation/Site Historian at the Wharton Esherick Museum, Holly Gore, for this unique moment in studio furniture discourse. The museum and exhibit will have extended hours following the program for visitors.


James ZemaitisDirector of Museum Relations at R & Company


Alan LazarusFounder of the VCUarts wood program and furnituremaker 

Scott BraunAssistant Professor of wood in Craft/Material Studies at VCU

Holly GoreDirector of Interpretation/Site Historian at the Wharton Esherick Museum

In-person tickets are SOLD OUT; virtual streaming passes are available

In this workshop, participants will explore the medium of cyanotypes and photographic contact printing at The Branch Museum of Architecture and Design with Liz Zhang, a Virginia-based artist. She will lead a workshop using India ink on mylar to create “negatives” for cyanotype printing outside in the sun. During the workshop, participants will be able to discuss the relationship between image and surface, as well as the traditional function of cyanotypes as the architectural “blueprint.”

Liz Zhang works in painting, printmaking, and textiles. Her work is often characterized by scenes of figures or the spaces those figures might inhabit, through which she explores exclusion, alliance, isolation, and coexistence. She received at Bachelor of Arts in Studio Art (Painting and Printmaking) in 2018 from The University of Virginia with Highest Distinction. She is currently based in Virginia.

Atavistic Memories: The Studio Furniture of Sam Forrest is organized by The Branch Museum of Architecture and Design and is generously supported by:

Robbin and Bob Steele

Patsy K. Pettus

The exhibition would not have been possible without the following individuals, who gave generously of their time, expertise, collections, and memories of Sam:

Bo Forrest

Mark Lenz, Tabitha Ramseyer, Joe Ramseyer, Hyco House, Mathews, VA

Jennifer Schroeder, Bay School Community Arts Center, Mathews, VA

Scott Braun, Assistant Professor, Area Head in Wood, Craft/Material Studies, VCUArts

Arthur and Lloyd Backstrom

Sharon Leahman

Ryland and Monika Fleet

Rubin Peacock

Alan Lazarus

Catherine Venable

Zarina Fazaldin

Andrew Willner

Maurice Beane