Looking Up from Under the Table
Nostalgia wraps me up tight in a sweet and prickly blanket. I feel perfectly small, wide-eyed and innocent, immediately transported to my childhood suburban kitchen, watching my mom bake cookies from under the kitchen table.
I struggle to describe my experience with Robert Therrien’s Under the Table, a prominent feature at The Broad museum in Los Angeles. Seeing this piece from afar, I was overwhelmed with the powerful prick of this pink, perfect nostalgia.
I didn’t know about this piece when I entered the museum. I was in the middle of a Southwestern road trip and I was thrilled to have an air-conditioned break from the L.A. heat. Once inside, I turned the corner and came face-to-face with an enormous chair leg. Suddenly, I was back in my footed pajamas under that familiar, suburban kitchen table from my childhood, dreamily walking under this perfectly proportioned tabletop. I paused and looked up—and I felt perfectly small again. In this moment, I felt the most satisfying blend of emotions. I was entranced by this indulgent gift from my childhood presented in front of me—an emotionally charged amusement park ride for my memories. I looked up and smiled.
Years later, this piece lives quietly in the back corner of my mind. I am amazed at the lasting influence Under the Table has created in my life. Therrien’s work has encouraged me to continue to shift my perspective, and for that, I am thankful. Art sometimes creates unexpected opportunities for daily joy: kitchen tables make me smile, and that in itself is a quiet pleasure. Sometimes, when things are feeling especially bleak, I will lie under the table and just look up a while.
Emily Rozitis is a writer and teacher based in the Canadian prairies.
Robert Therrien (1947 – 2019) had a lifelong fascination with household objects. His work transformed mundane objects like tables, chairs, and dishes into monumental and detailed works of art. Under the Table is his best-known work.