In the Chamber is a print made by artist Katja Oxman in 1989. Oxman’s artwork consists of still-life prints, using Middle Eastern or Turkish carpets as a backdrop for an array of objects: boxes, fruits, flowers, feathers, small birds (in this case, a bird’s nest with eggs), postcards, and reproductions of other artworks. This particular print is the 30th print out of 150 struck from the same plate. It came to the Mead Art Museum as an anonymous gift in 2013. John Arthur describes Oxman’s work: “Katja Oxman’s still lifes allude to a tranquil, interior world. Their unidentifiable space serves as miniature rooms where seemingly nothing occurs beyond their perimeters. The prints are structured like tableaus and appear to be settings for parables with unknown or half-remembered connotations and pay homage to the artist’s private history and cultural past. Each composition is filled with an elegant and a deeply personal array of objects. To quote Noël Arnaud, ‘I am the space where I am’.”
The carpets provide an intricate, geometrically-patterned backdrop to the objects Oxman has chosen to use. This juxtaposition invokes the long tradition of nestling an arrangement of objects in an exotic “oriental” carpet in European still-life paintings (including those of seventeenth-century painters Willem Kalf and Francesco Maltese). It has also been argued that the impulse and poetic temperament behind her still life prints lies closely to the shadow boxes of artist Joseph Cornell, filled with eclectic arrangements of objects (in an article by John Arthur). Oxman’s artwork is thus connected to a long history of still-life and assemblage art, in which she displays her mastery of translating the material world into a two-dimensional print, through the process of etching.