Body of Work: Contemporary Art Jewelry on the Body

Baltimore Jewelry Center

An examination of work exploring the body within the contemporary art jewelry field

Body of Work
In Body of Work: Contemporary Art Jewelry on the Body contemporary jewelers, metalsmiths, and sculptors who make work that alters, compliments, or draws attention to the body are showcased. This exhibition was conceived and curated by staff of the Baltimore Jewelry Center, a metals and jewelry community education space in Baltimore, Maryland. Within the exhibition the work has been divided into three sections: the Mimicked Body, the Manipulated Body, and the Material Body. Work within these categories might explore ideas of the body as architectural structure or framework, adornment as a means of attraction or a declaration of status, the landscape of the body (including unusual placements, the capturing of gestures, the focus on the body and its functions), the internal versus external body, the protection or defense of the body, the gendered body, etc.

“The body says what words cannot.”
Martha Graham


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.

The Mimicked Body
The works in this section use a variety of materials and methods  to mimic or literally represent the physical body. Mimicry may be utilized as a form of adoration or flattery. It can also be used as a method of self-defense and protection. By recreating or mimicking the body in a variety of materials, the viewer may be forced to confront feelings of attraction or repulsion based on the context of the forms and their associations for the viewer.

Ruffles and Pearls
Stephanie Voegele
2012

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.

Skin Adornment
Stephanie Voegele
2010

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.

Open It 1
Jina Seo
2016

Jina Seo (Richmond, VA) uses vintage leather gloves and clothing to explore fetish. Through the deconstruction of a familiar clothing object and the removal of the human presence, she highlights the surreal space our bodies occupy.

Blaobilicus
Jillian Moore
2016

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.

Porifera
Jillian Moore
2009

Ocular Romance
Natasha Morris
2016

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.

Bare Tetons
Leslie Boyd
2014

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.

Say My Name by Leslie Boyd subverts traditional gender roles and expectations of male and female sexuality.

Say My Name
Leslie Boyd
2013

The realistic gold-plated modeling of a penis on a traditional chain speaks to societal power constructs and, when modeled by a woman, how those roles may be reversed or challenged.

Double Dutch
Tanya Crane
2015

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.

Fleshgem #1
Jill Baker Gower
2013

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.

Cracheh
Marion Delarue
2011

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
Renee Zettle-Sterling
2015

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.

The Manipulated Body
Through the manipulation and control of the body, artists may highlight subconscious gestures and meaning implicit in our day-to-day lives. Jewelry is often seen as passive adornment when in fact it can be powerful by its very placement on the body. The artists featured in this section utilize placement and location on the body to physically limit or restrain the movement and gestures of the wearer. These artists create jewelry and wearable sculpture that manipulates, alters, or interferes with the body in unexpected ways. 

Silence is Golden II
Olivia Shih
2014

In Olivia Shih's (Oakland, CA) work, materials typically associated with the home (white ceramic tile and grout) are used to create structures that isolate and highlight gestures associated with assumptions of proper female behavior.

How a Good Girl Sits
Olivia Shih
2014

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."

Androgyny 1
Yu Chi Chien
2016

Yu Chi Chien's (Rochester, NY) work explores gender roles and androgyny by manipulation of the body, forcing the wearer into various postures that might mask the masculinity or feminity of the body. Androgyny 1 is fabricated from copper, brass, and a thermoplastic.

Ledge
Leila Du Mond
2016

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.

Balance
Mary Raivel
2013

Mary Raivel's (Baltimore, MD) work is inspired by Mid-Century Modern furniture design. In her piece Balance bronze ellipses envelop the wearer, altering the body's silhouette.

Hide Diamond in the Rough 2
Kat Zhang
2016

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.

Primrose Ruff
Rachel Suzanne Smith
2015

Floral imagery has been utilized in jewelry throughout the ages, however in Rachel Suzanne Smith’s (Stow, OH) work Primrose Ruff, the exaggerated scale creates a feeling that the wearer is at once a part of the flower itself.

Peak Piece
Cate Richards
2016

Humor and playfulness is evident in Cate Richards' (Lawrence, KS) Peak Piece series, in which she modeled cartoonish mountain ranges off of various locations of her body. These cast aluminum forms are flocked with rayon fibers to create fuzzy forms emerging from the body.

Ornamental Hands: Figure Four
Jennifer Crupi
2014

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.

Knismolagnia Bodygear
Emily Culver
2014

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.

Knismesis Headgear
Emily Culver
2015

Culver's work has developed from her material explorations, including digitally printed materials, silicone, and rubber, to create objects which are extensions of the body.

Liquid/Solid 2
Bryan Kekst Brown
2016

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
2016

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)
Lauren Kalman
2015

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.

The Material Body
These artists utilize materials that may have a unique or special association to the body, through function or typical application. By placing the material on the body, the artist forces the viewer to confront those associations and our relationships to material. 

Nestle
Joshua Kosker
2015

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.

(re)embody
Joshua Kosker
2016

Kosker’s installation (re)embody further captures these intimate moments and activates the object by inviting the viewer to partake in the act of washing their hands and contribute to the erosion of the material.

Kyriani Hinkleman (Rochester,NY) utilizes the care tags from clothing, a typically hidden element, in her piece How to Care for Her.

How to Care for Her
Kyriani Hinkleman
2016

The ruffled form is reminiscent of Elizabethan collars and offers a moment of psychological and emotional investigation through the wordplay in title and material choice.

safety pin study #2
Jess Tolbert
2015

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.

Turner Co.
Kerianne Quick
2014

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)
Kerianne Quick
2014

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)
Demitra Thomloudis
2014

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.

Mantle
Elaine Zukowski
2013

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
Kristin Beeler
2015

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)
Kristin Beeler
2015

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
2014

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.

Wrappers From Long Beach
Rachel Shimpock
2012

Flux 9
Katja Toporski
2011

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.

 
Body of Work is a small glimpse into the depth and breadth of the contemporary art jewelry field. The variety of materials, techniques, and concepts are unified through one thing: their connection to the body. As jewelers, this is our landscape and we revel in exploring it.  
Credits: Story

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.

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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