The Alice C. Sabatini Art Gallery hosts a national biennial in the Midwest U.S. of juried high-end craft and 3-D art, showcasing fifty-one pieces selected by juror and metalsmith-extraordinaire Sarah Perkins in metals, jewelry, fibers, clay, wood, glass, sculpture and mixed media. As mentioned in my previous post on artdoesmatter, I’d like to highlight some of these installations more in-depth. I’m very honored to have been selected to exhibit one of my Widget Lockets alongside such diverse wealth of talent and techniques.Gina Westergard’s Flor de Muerto is an amalgam of wearable-meets-sculptural in a metal vessel. In Mexico’s Dia de los Muertos ceremonies, marigold flower pollen is used; here, Westergard cleverly combines the ring portion of a sterling, copper and gold-leaf-flowered reliquary to be completely concealed inside of a stunningly fabricated and painted metal vessel. The marigold ring lifts out of the sculptural piece to be an independent reliquary or container of ashes/remains all on its own. To add an element of grandeur and preciousness, the artist has gold-leafed the interior circular container of the wearable ring, so the object becomes more “urn-like” and worthy of a final resting spot for a beloved. In her artist statement, she reflects: “Nestled within the interior of each lid is an element that awaits discovery, representing new growth and renewal. I believe the urn not only holds a life that has passed but also contains an energy that continues.” Westergard is an Associate Professor of Metalsmithing and Jewelry and the Director of Graduate Studies in Art & Design at The University of Kansas. Sunyoung Cheong’s Enchained is an installation that offers a black chain element that is larger in scale to the average human body, positioned in the gallery with a two-dimensional photograph of her jewelry piece hanging just above. The links that comprise the actual piece are dyed cleaning sponges, arranged to be in strict repetition. The title of the work, as well as the accompanying photograph, could imply a negative association that one conjures up while engaging with this piece. Is this a commentary on the artist’s own experiences or otherwise? Here is where attempting a critique rears impossibility – as this work is being viewed through a two-dimensional screen of pixels. However, my frustration with wanting to see this piece in-person is quieted somewhat by the presence of the artist’s framed photograph: is she trying to offer her viewer a parody of domestic women’s work or even the pressures of perceived female societal responsibilities? Or rather, is this just a talented and highly-skilled designer wanting to push the envelope of materials in her jewelry, by “beautifying” a common household item with mysterious black dye? At first glance, before I discovered the exact materials employed, i.e. household sponges, silicone, dye – I had wondered if this work could have been 3-D printed in nylon; the artist teaches digital fabrication techniques currently at The University of Kansas while pursuing an MFA in Metalsmithing. Incidentally, Sunyoung’s Enchained piece was chosen to be exhibited at Confluence, the 2013 annual juried student exhibition at the Society of North American Goldsmiths’ (SNAG) 2013 conference in Toronto. She is also one of the student finalists in the 2014 Niche Awards competition, in both the fashion jewelry and recycled categories. Arizona-based fiber artist Amy Masters displays a vibrant but haunting piece, Let Me Go. At its very top, it begins as a sturdy and elegant cascade of patterned squares comprised of these “pom-pom-esque” circular shapes. The pom-poms or rosettes start out as a deeper blue color, but as the eye moves downward, purple rosettes are introduced to the once-steady blues. Eventually, the piece loses its look of stability by deliberately morphing into a decomposing or fallen-apart tapestry. If one was to draw a possible conclusion about this piece’s apparent meaning – one could surmise that a relationship or interaction between people once stable is now transforming gradually to a falling-apart or state of dissension, as witnessed by the grey-black threads that have turned into gaps or holes, where their upper-portioned companion squares are solid, beautiful forms. One can’t help but also wonder if Masters is employing a modern-day reference to an afghan of “granny squares” – the popular repetitive pattern of Americana’s traditional quilts and handmade crochet afghans. It is quite masterful how this fiber piece comes to a dramatic end with its sole black thread, twisted and dangling from the last fiber square at the bottom that has become distorted and elongated.
Topeka Competition 31 National Juried 3-D Exhibition is open December 6th, 2013 through January 19th, 2014 at the Alice C. Sabatini Art Gallery, located adjacent to the Topeka & Shawnee County Public Library at 1515 SW 10th Avenue in downtown Topeka, Kansas.