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James Prestini

Bowls
1933–1953
Mexican mahogany
4 3/4 x 9 in.; 7 3/8 x 13 1/2 in.
Smithsonian American Art Museum, Gift of the artist

James Prestini is often called the father of the lathe-turned wood movement in America. Because his forms are deceptive in their simplicity and devoid of decoration, it is easy to dismiss them as handicraft imitating machine production. His pieces, however, are amazingly thin and have retained their integrity, despite the propensity of wood to split or warp as climatic conditions change. His genius lies in his choice of woods and his alignment of grains to create subtle decorative effects. Ultimately, Prestini's artistry is revealed in his integration of lathe skill, knowledge of woods, and sensitivity to form and finish.