Stephen Burks explores spirituality and belonging in Chicago exhibition

Stephen Burks’ modern altars go on show in his ‘Spirit Houses’ exhibition at Volume Gallery (until 28 October 2023)

Stephen Burks Altars
Two pieces by Stephen Burks on show at Volume Gallery, Chicago. Left: ‘Transformer’, right: ‘Altar’
(Image credit: Courtesy of Stephen Burks)

Last year, industrial designer Stephen Burks debuted his first modern altar, ‘Spirit House', at the High Museum of Art, for his exhibition 'Stephen Burks: Shelter In Place'. Now, a year on, he reveals his latest exhibition, 'Spirit Houses', at Chicago's Volume Gallery.

Stephen Burks: 'Spirit Houses'

Stephen Burks spirit house


(Image credit: Courtesy of Stephen Burks)

Spirituality, loss, and belonging are some of the underlying feelings and beliefs that inspired Stephen Burks’ latest collection of ‘Spirit Houses’: drawing on ten years of commercial practice and collaborations, in this current exhibition, Burks has questioned how design can be employed to accompany traditional religious practices, while also creating products and furniture to serve everyday needs and functionality.

With the Black Lives Matter movement and the aftermath of the global Covid-19 pandemic in mind, the Chicago native wanted to address social issues by emphasising the importance of self-care, race, spiritually, and loss through the collection of modern altars.

Stephen Burks oak Y-shaped floor light

‘Ypsilon’ floor lamp

(Image credit: Courtesy of Stephen Burks)

Burks’ unique interpretation of West African and Asian spiritual practices is at the forefront of the Spirit House design, with the implication that these beliefs and rituals inform multiple aspects of society today.

The exhibition will include ‘Altar’, a minimalist wall-mounted display shelf made out of plywood. The open-faced shelving could pay homage to pictures of loved ones, or showcase favoured trinkets. ‘Tableau’ will also be on display: a black-stained, low oak coffee table for an area of shared gatherings and open conversations.

Stephen Burks Altars


(Image credit: Courtesy of Stephen Burks)

The interlocking container 'Transformer' is a multipurpose handheld container to hold belongings or, in a religious context, offerings.

The collection also includes a series of lights:Cozy’, a small, warm-toned, coiled rope container, and ‘Lantern’, crafted from paper and silk, take reference from Buddhist traditions and east Asian culture. 'Ypsilon', a Y-shaped floor lamp is the largest of all pieces. This series invites people to come together with compassion and calmness, allowing a pause for thought- spiritual or not- in our busy day-to-day lives.

‘Spirit Houses’ are on display in the Chicago Volume Gallery, Illinois until 28 October 2023.

Stephen Burks spirit house wrapped with red rope


(Image credit: Courtesy of Stephen Burks)

Close-up of Stephen Burks' spirit house

Detail of ‘Lantern’

(Image credit: Courtesy of Stephen Burks)

Tianna Williams is the Editorial Executive at Wallpaper*. Before joining the team in 2023, she has contributed to BBC Wales, SurfGirl Magazine, and Parisian Vibe, with work spanning from social media content creation to editorial. Now, her role covers writing across varying content pillars for Wallpaper*.