Love, Dad

Media - 2021.18.1 - SAAM-2021.18.1_1 - 142995
Copied David Chatt, Love, Dad, 2012-2013, glass beads, thread, wooden table, letters, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Museum purchase through the Kenneth R. Trapp Acquisition Fund, 2021.18.1, © 2022, David Chatt

Artwork Details

Love, Dad
overall: 47 12 × 16 12 × 16 12 in. (120.7 × 41.9 × 41.9 cm) table: 37 3416 1216 12 in. letters: 10 1814 1414 14 in. key: 2 78112 in.
© 2022, David Chatt
Credit Line
Museum purchase through the Kenneth R. Trapp Acquisition Fund
Mediums Description
glass beads, thread, wooden table, letters
  • Object — written matter — letter
  • Allegory — passion — love
Object Number

Artwork Description

David Chatt has specialized in labor intensive beadwork for more than thirty years. His father, Orville, was also an accomplished modernist jeweler and introduced Chatt to beadwork. Chatt developed his own technique for beading, a modified right-angle weave that uses a single needle and allows him to build in three dimensions. Following the death of his father, Chatt meticulously encased, with white beads, thirty years of their correspondence.


Chatt’s reflection on his father and Love, Dad:


My father was typical of many men; friendly but not intimate, familiar but not known. I loved him but struggle still to understand the distance he kept. That said, my father did not let a week pass without sending me a hand written, newsy and advice-laden letter. Even with the emphasis on advice, I loved getting these missives and in 1980 I began saving them. When he passed, I found myself with a collection, now complete, which spanned thirty years. I had imagined myself going back and re-reading them after his death. When the anticipated time arrived, the box that housed them loomed large in its place in my home. I thought of delving into its contents but could not bring myself to do it. I have known grief and do not fear it, but I am also my father’s son. While I am willing to engage, I do not invite sadness, and reading about a world where a father and mother shared a home and offered updates and council to a young son as he experienced the first throws of independence seemed impossibly sad. Instead, I spent a year laboring to create a place for these letters. I recognize the importance of what they represent but I am making the choice to contain them and to place them in an environment where they can be seen but not shared. As I began this work, I thought of this image as a metaphor for my father and his illusive nature. As I completed it, I understood that this effort is as much a symbol of how I deal with my feelings as for how my father dealt with his. Love, Dad is about a father and son who loved each other, each in their own sincere and flawed way.


This Present Moment: Crafting a Better World, 2022


Quilt featuring the portrait of a woman
This Present Moment: Crafting a Better World
May 13, 2022April 2, 2023
This Present Moment: Crafting a Better World showcases the dynamic landscape of American craft today. The exhibition highlights the role that artists play in our world to spark essential conversations, stories of resilience, and methods of activism—showing us a more relational and empathetic world. It centers more expansive definitions and acknowledgments of often-overlooked histories and contributions of women, people of color, and other marginalized communities.