By Kenna Bruner

A sofa twisted into a knot, a dining table bulging with a roller-coaster-like loop, a massive picnic table curled into a question mark. These shapes don’t occur naturally—they’re the creations of Assistant Professor Michael Beitz. His hybrid designs blend sculpture and furniture as he manipulates wood into flexible forms that bend, curve and meander in disconnected directions.

Beitz likes to say that he “sees” with his hands, by feeling the wood and noting its imperfections. It’s a skill he developed when he worked with master furniture maker Wendell Castle, an acclaimed artist of the American art furniture movement.

Through the use of obstacles or spatial distance in each piece, Beitz tries to create a sense of intimacy or alienation that serves as a commentary on the human condition.

“I’m interested in integrating ideas about relationships and family dynamics into objects and the spaces they’re in,” said Beitz, a faculty member with the Department of Art and Art History. “I discover new directions when I make things.”