An examination of work exploring the body within the contemporary art jewelry field
“The body says what words cannot.”
Jewelry has the power to draw a viewer in and engage them in dialogue through the artwork’s intimate placement on the body. It is through this dialogue that we highlight work in the contemporary art jewelry field. What is small and intimate can often resonate most loudly.
Ruffles and Pearls
In the piece Ruffles and Pearls Stephanie Voegele (Milwaukee, WI) transcends the boundaries of the body by simultaneously exploring the interior and exterior. Her use of materials suggest both garments and flesh and create a surface that may be seen as both beautiful and repugnant.
Voegele's Skin Adornment and Ruffles and Pearls reference pearls captured within the silicone rubber, alluding to the epitome of decorum, the pearl necklace. This association speaks to the origin of pearls themselves, the specks of grit and irritation that become part of an oyster's flesh.
Jillian Moore's (Iowa City, IA) work is often reminiscent of biological forms, body parts, and organs. The forms may seem strangely familiar, but without further context to a function or origin, they exist as elements that are intriguing, ambiguous, and may evoke responses of disgust, repulsion, or unease. To wear them on the body further alters our perception of them.
This video collaboration, featuring jewelry by Jillian Moore, was made by Iowa City artists to celebrate FlyOver Fashion Festival.
In Ocular Romance by Natasha Morris (Miami, FL) an oval brass frame references the traditional locket, a highly romanticized and sentimental jewelry form. Raw, flesh colored threads spill out to create an abstract, textural surface. It's only when the piece is turned over that the secret is revealed to the wearer.
Leslie Boyd (Philadelphia, PA) explores the politics of the body and gender stereotypes within her jewelry and sculptural work. In Bare Tetons, nylons are stretched over rounded foam forms to mimic breasts. The chosen materials and the placement on the body (as a brooch, typically worn on the chest) work together to create a humorous dialogue about women's bodies.
Tanya Crane’s (Pawtucket, RI) work Double Dutch uses subtle humor and nostalgia to speak to ideas surrounding African American sexuality. Double Dutch jump ropes are fabricated from synthetic hair and cast black dildos. The use of these materials in conjunction with a childhood game toys with suggestions of hypersexuality in black youth and stereotypical assumptions.
Jill Baker Gower
Jill Baker Gower's (Mullica Hill, NJ) work speaks to the female experience through her choice of materials, patterns, colors, and forms. In Fleshgem #1, a brooch is centrally displayed on an oval wall-mount. Both elements are cast from silicone rubber and are flesh-like in color and texture. Together they read as a female breast, the nipple formed from a rubber casting of a piece of costume jewelry, the faceted edges of the stones mimicking the bumps of an areola.
Marion Delarue (Carbon-Blanc, France) explores the traditional Korean headdress form in her work Cracheh, combining unexpected materials with traditional methods. By coating bicycle inner tube rubber with traditional Korean lacquer, she creates a form that is undulating and fluid, an abstracted representation of the traditional plaited hair.
Object of Mourning #3
Through a Victorian inspired aesthetic, Renee Zettle-Sterling (Coopersville, MI) uses her artwork to address issues of mourning in contemporary American culture. Her work is detailed, heavily textured, and densely black, carrying the emotional weight of her subject matter. Object of Mourning: Veil #3 is an homage to her brother and the loss of him.
How a Good Girl Sits
Shih states, "I use restrictive metal armatures and sterile bathroom tiling as points of conceptual departure to examine the internalized habits of women. My work physically manifests the damage of gender inequality, repeatedly imprinted on the subconscious of women."
Leila Du Mond
Leila Du Mond’s work investigates the landscape of the body, amplifying junctures, crevices, and nooks of the body through the placement of bronze forms in these areas. These “wearable” forms, such as Ledge are somewhat ambiguous and architectural, creating a border or imparting a feeling of force or weight on the body.
Hide Diamond in the Rough 2
Kat Zhang (West Henrietta, NY) speaks of the series of work, entitled Hide Diamond in the Rough, saying "The original idea...comes from the Chinese traditional philosophy about an attitude towards life [ 藏拙. Sometimes it’s wise to sheathe one’s talent instead of showing off. To hide is not to be afraid or evade others, but to avoid unnecessary troubles and to preserve strength." The neckpiece featured combines hard and soft materials to envelope the wearer's body and create a shroud, illustrating a psychological protection or shield to the outside world.
Ornamental Hands: Figure Four
Through the fabrication of delicate silver forms, Jennifer Crupi (Oceanport, NJ) manipulates the body by capturing and holding the body in specific gestures. In these captured moments, the viewer is confronted with the visual language and meaning of the gesture, frozen in time.
In Emily Culver's (Danville, PA) work, erotic sensation and touch is explored through placement of forms in strategic locations on the body. The contact is inescapable when the work is worn and the wearer must navigate experiencing these sensations in a public sphere.
Bryan Kekst Brown
In Bryan Kekst Brown's (Philadelphia, PA) piece Liquid/Solid 2, the body is a platform for exploring material. This work includes a small amount of gallium, an elemental material that has a unique melting temperature, becoming liquid at slightly above average room temperature (85 degrees F). This property gives the wearer and viewer a reference point for temperature wherever they go.
Device for Filling a Void (7)
Lauren Kalman (Detroit, MI) pushes the boundaries of comfort and the wearability of the object through her exploration of the body and her navigation across its borders. Through her work, and the documentation of it being worn, she addresses issues of adornment, power, beauty, gender, and style.
Device for Filling a Void(4)
In her series Devices to Fill a Void, Kalman has created minimal ceramic and metal forms that are inserted into the wearer's mouth. When worn they distort the model's face and impede speech and swallowing. The documentation of the wearer's discomfort speaks to extremes of style and social dictates of fashion and consumerism.
Soap as a material comes in contact with the body, and is changed by that contact. In Joshua Kosker’s (Seneca, PA) work, such as the brooch Nestle, he puts soap back in context of the body. By setting used bars of soap with traditional jewelry methods, he highlights the passage of time and gives preciousness to the most routine of actions.
safety pin study #2
Jess Tolbert's (El Paso, TX) work examines function through the sometimes obliteration of that function. In safety pin study #2, the ubiquitous safety pin is altered in the most delicate fashion through the extension of the pin stem itself, highlighting the tool, but rendering it unusable.
Kerianne Quick (San Diego, CA) uses discarded bricks foraged from the Hudson River Valley to speak to issues of labor, the industrial landscape, regional histories, and adornment. Turner Co. utilizes materials foraged from the former site of the Turner Brickworks, Port Ewen, New York.
25 Broadway (Neckpiece)
Quick states, "The materials I engage share a thread of precarious rarity. They are symbols and symptoms of late capital. Through engagement with the body I explore materials whose cultural meaning are in transition, while using the body as a metaphor for a larger context."
Subdivided and Joined (Necklace)
Demi Thomloudis (Athens, GA) uses materials and forms often associated with building and construction in her jewelry. She states, "My work extracts specific elements that we encounter on a monumental level and places it into the intimate hands of the viewer." The body becomes the landscape with which the built environment interacts, mimicking moments and details we see in the urban spaces around us.
Using a visual vocabulary drawn from ornamental plaster work and stylized botanical forms, Elaine Zukowski's (Baltimore, MD) Mantle undulates across the body. Ornamental plaster work is often used to frame artwork and Zukowski's use of those elements frames the wearer's body.
Portrait of a Man.1A
In Kristin Beeler's (Long Beach, CA) series Archive of Rag and Bone she documents moments in time, specifically scars on the body, through embroidery on Tyvek garments. The series explores the Japanese art of kintsugi, focusing on the repair of the human form as a method for marking and highlighting personal narratives.
Portrait of a Man.1B (detail)
While the objects in Archive of Rag and Bone might not be seen as jewelry, they speak to the ability of jewelry and objects of adornment to hold memory. The delicate nature of the embroidered garments is paired with photographic documentation of the individual scars, as well as a variety of objects in wood, charcoal, mother of pearl, and silver. Together these moments reflect on opposing ideas of beauty and permanence.
Tater Chip Earrings
Rachel Shimpock’s (Huntington Beach, CA) use of food as source material imbues her work with both a lighthearted humor, but also a familiarity and level of comfort. To see these food materials transformed into wearables and raised to a level of preciousness through the use of gold-plating, as in Tater Chip Earrings, or enamel work highlights our memories and associations to these foods.
Katja Toporski (Washington DC) often uses unusual and ephemeral materials in her work to mark the passage of time on the body. In this time-lapse video, Flux 9, a necklace cast in red wine and gelatin is shown to disintegrate on the wearer's body over a period of time.
About the jurors:
Shane Prada is the Director and a co-founder of the Baltimore Jewelry Center. She has been making jewelry and small sculpture for 6 years, first as a student at the MICA Jewelry Center and now, when she’s not making spreadsheets and grant writing, as a student at the Baltimore Jewelry Center.
April Wood is the Exhibitions Director at the Baltimore Jewelry Center, as well as an instructor and studio manager, and a co-founder. She exhibits her work nationally and internationally, including a solo exhibition at the Austin Museum of Art – Laguna Gloria, and SIERAAD International Art Jewelry Fair in Amsterdam. She holds a BFA in Studio Art – Metals & Jewelry from Texas State University – San Marcos and an MFA in Studio Art from Towson University.
About the Baltimore Jewelry Center:
The Baltimore Jewelry Center is a 501c3 educational nonprofit building a vibrant creative community for the study and practice of metalworking for new and established artists. We offer classes, workshops, and studio space rental to anyone with an interest in contemporary jewelry and metalsmithing. In addition to our education program, the Baltimore Jewelry Center helps metal and jewelry artists grow sustainable business practices by offering professional development, sales opportunities, and a promotional platform.