Mother’s Helper by Derek Chalfant

TITLE: Mother’s Helper
ARTIST: Derek Chalfant
DATE: 1998
MATERIALS: stainless steel, bronze
DIMENSIONS: 15′ x 8′ x 3′
TYPE: sculpture

Can you discern all the forms that figure into Indiana-born Derek Chalfant’s provocative Mother’s Helper (1998)? Let’s start from the top: a baby’s high chair extends downward via exaggerated legs to the ground where it transforms into a rocker, straddling what appears to be a recumbent Christian Cross. At the head of the cross, there are two bronze objects: a baby and a cast of the “Webster’s New Collegiate Dictionary.” How might these pieces come together to tell a story, ask a question, or make a statement?

According to Chalfant, “the high chair represents nutrients needed for life, the rocker symbolizes rest and nurturing, the baby with its head on the dictionary represents knowledge, and the cross is a symbol of spirituality—all ingredients needed for human growth.”

Can you imagine other ways of arranging these ingredients? Are there other ingredients for human growth that you might include?

A Herron alumnus who is now associate professor of art at Elmira College in Upstate New York, Chalfant’s research includes designing and making sculpture and furniture specializing in wood and metal fabrication, as well as casting metal and glass.

To learn more about this artwork, visit https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mother%27s_Helper_(sculpture),  which includes information created by Herron School of Art and Design and IUPUI Museum Studies faculty and students in 2009 as part of “A Survey of IUPUI Public Art.”