Art of Adornment: Studio Jewelry
Art of Adornment: Studio Jewelry features the work of thirteen artists who create jewelry that is part of an ongoing trend to marry precious with non-precious materials. Merging the timeless with the fleeting, the precious with the ordinary, their work combines gems and metals with materials found in nature, the environment and industry.
Formally trained in design and fabrication, the artists in this exhibition are grounded in the history of jewelry and its purposes. Their work represents their individual searches for an aesthetic that speaks to their chosen materials and craftsmanship. Tina Rath works with precious gems and fur, materials associated with privilege, but while the gems are stable and everlasting, the fur is fragile. Kiwon Wang mixes ageless pearls with paper, a product prone to aging and fraying. Man-made materials, old and new, get new life in the hands of Susanne Klemm and Jill Baker Gower.
Jewelry has long signaled status and wealth. Traditionally, social value could be attained only if the materials themselves were enduring, making possible heirlooms that passed from generation to generation. Although their appearance and craft could change over time, it was the precious gem or metal that gave it value.
Although mainstream jewelry designers still trade on the notion that ‘a diamond is forever’, the 20th century saw a shift in this approach. Studio jewelry, influenced by the Arts and Crafts Movement, redefined value as resting in the aesthetic and skill of the maker rather than the value of the materials. This shift opened the door to any material that caught the fancy of the artist.
This juxtaposition of precious, long-lasting materials and non-traditional, ephemeral elements may suggest a playful or irreverent critique of our understanding of value, challenging the consumer to reconsider the meaning of jewelry and our understanding of the relationship between value and timelessness. Appearance can be greatly enhanced by beautiful objects and therein, lies the Art of Adornment.