I recently visited the exhibit Maker and Muse, Women and Early Twentieth Century Art Jewelry at the Driehaus Museum in Chicago. Curated by Elyse Zorn Karlin, author of Jewelry and Metalwork in the Arts and Crafts Tradition, the exhibit explores the multiple roles women played in the creation of early 20th century art jewelry as makers, patrons, and subjects. About half of the 250 pieces in the exhibit are drawn from the collection of Richard H. Driehaus – founder of the museum – and half are on loan from other museums and private collections. I was in Chicago to attend the annual conference of the Association for the Study of Jewelry and Related Arts (ASJRA) which was focused this year on the subjects covered in the museum exhibition. For my post on the conference click here.
My friend Francesca Pastine is a talented artist whose creativity never fails to amaze me. Whether she is working in a conventional medium like oil paint, or less conventional media, she manages to produce work that is both beautiful and meaningful. For several years she has been working on a series called the Artforum Excavations. In these works she cuts and folds Artforum magazines and transforms them into art objects.
Her earliest works in this series remind me of topographic maps, with hills and valleys carved from the pages of the magazine.
The Kent State Museum contains an important collection of fashion and mounts exhibits with the goal of understanding world cultures through lens of fashion, textiles, and related arts.
Their current exhibit (through July 5, 2015) is The Great War: Women and Fashion in a World at War about changes in women’s fashions in response to WWI. The exhibit curator has produced a series of four 3-4 minute videos that show how women’s fashions changed in response to changes in women’s roles during the war and availability of materials:
Two years ago, on a buying trip to England, I attended the Saltaire Vintage Home and Fashion Fair. Held in the town of Saltaire, on the outskirts of Bradford in West Yorkshire, this vintage show is held several times a year. A medium-sized show with approximately 40 booths, I found several great pieces of jewelry including a wonderful dangling hinged paste brooch, an Art Deco double-clip brooch, a modernist ring, and a Ming’s brooch.
The Ming’s brooch was an unusual find for England as it was made in Hawaii in the 1950’s. When I asked the dealer about it it turned out that she had bought it in California, near where I live; I, in turn, sold it to a collector in Hawaii. This brooch had travelled the world for over 50 years and finally returned home!
An important exhibit by Chinese artist Ai Weiwei recently opened on Alcatraz. Called @Large: Ai Weiwei on Alcatraz the exhibit is installed throughout the prison; the artworks address themes of freedom and imprisonment using different media and methods of interacting with the viewers.
Ai Weiwei is an internationally renowned artist known for provocative work that often has political themes. He achieved worldwide fame beyond the art world as part of the design team for the Beijing National Stadium, known popularly as the “Birds Nest”, for the 2008 Summer Olympics. In 2011 he was arrested and held for 81 days for being a prominent and outspoken critic of the Chinese government. As of this writing in October 2014, the Chinese government has retained his passport, keeping him from leaving China.
One of only four museums in the United States with a gallery space dedicated to its permanent jewelry collections, the Newark Museum is a little-known gem that deserves better recognition by jewelry lovers. To people unfamiliar with jewelry history the crime-plagued city of Newark may seem like an odd place for a museum committed to the display of jewelry, however from about 1850-1950 Newark was the fine jewelry manufacturing capital of the United States. According to Ulysses Grant Dietz, curator of decorative arts at the Newark Museum and author of “The Glitter and the Gold, Fashioning America’s Jewelry”, it is estimated that in 1929 approximately ninety percent of solid-gold jewelry made in the U.S. came from Newark factories.
More often than not I’m disappointed by the exhibits at the Costume Institute of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. Rather than being in-depth studies of a fashion designer, style, or theme they often end up being product placement for the sponsoring designer. However the current exhibit, Charles James: Beyond Fashion, is everything I want in a fashion exhibit. While I’m not sure what the curators mean by “Beyond Fashion” – as if the sublime clothing in this exhibit needs to apologize for being “fashion” – they presented it superbly.
The late Christie Romero was a renowned jewelry historian and author of Warman’s Jewelry, a guide to jewelry of the 18th through 20th centuries. If I had to choose one jewelry book to recommend to a novice, out of the dozens I own, it would be Warman’s Jewelry 3rd edition because it is highly informative, covers all eras and genres in surprising detail, and contains a realistic range of prices; it also contains Romero’s invaluable timeline of jewelry history alongside landmarks of world history and industrial history. This book is out of print but can be found on Amazon. Warman’s Jewelry 5th Edition is also excellent and more widely available.