Dumbstruck by the virtuosity of the seventeenth-century Dutch-British woodcarver Grinling Gibbons, the young David Esterly dedicated himself to learning the art of carving wood. His choice was validated when he was commissioned to create the replacement for a work by Gibbons destroyed in the 1986 fire at Hampton Court.
In Quodlibet #1, Esterly recreates the form of a “letter rack” painting, a nineteenth-century tradition favored by American artists such as John F. Peto and William M. Harnett. A kind of wall-bound scrapbook, the letter rack’s straps hold a variety of objects according to the whims of the user. Esterly’s carving includes such twenty-first-century devices as an iPhone and a digital camera. A curtain obscuring the right side of the composition seems poised to close at the tug of a rope, suggesting the impermanence of all things.