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‘Jewel Thieves’ Sparkles

03/28/2013

The 2013 Jewelry + Metalsmithing graduate biennial exhibition includes handknit items and quirky accessories.

Making sure to retain a laser-sharp focus, Mallory Weston MFA 13 JM kept her eyes locked on the precise movements of the drill press. One slip-up could have meant minor disaster: an injured finger or the loss of expensive materials. But after 40 hours of concentrated labor, she managed to cut out the hundreds of small gold-plated copper pieces needed to make Like Wildflowers, an intricate necklace with long chains of iconic symbols from pop culture – peace signs, ankhs, moons, smiley faces, marijuana leaves.

“I was inspired by the concept of rapper bling,” Weston explains. “I wanted to create a marvelous piece of gold jewelry – which turned out to be an over-the-top necklace.” But even though the piece is exquisitely crafted, she won't be wearing it to her next black-tie affair. “The crescent moons really dig into the neck,” the artist notes. “It's too intense for me to put on for long.”

Instead, the statement piece is part of Jewel Thieves: I Thought You Said You Made Jewelry?, the 2013 Jewelry + Metalsmithing graduate biennial exhibition on view through April 13 at Sol Koffler Graduate Student Gallery. The collection of handknit items, quirky accessories and unconventional furniture made by a small group of J+M graduate students invites visitors to expand their own concept of  adornment and what constitutes wearable art.

“We hope to challenge the notions of jewelry as a commodity,” notes Weston. “You could say we've hijacked themes of traditional jewelry and reappropriated them for their own artistic expression.”

In addition to the necklace, Weston also crafted Cottontails #1 and Cottontails #2, a pair of furry metal brooches that look as much like a rabbit as the titles imply. And elsewhere in the gallery, visitors can find Smiley Gag, an ironic prop fashioned out of gold-plated copper, silver, steel and a leather strap. Cartoonish characters pictured in her favorite DIY artistic comics inspired the incredibly detailed pieces. “There is often a very humorous and sometimes seductive element to my work,” Weston explains. “Many of those themes are threads that runs through the zines I read.”

Like Weston's work, the beauty of the exhibition is in the details. For instance, Manuela Jimenez MFA 13 JM made Fading, a wearable ring that - from across the gallery - can be mistaken for a loop of glistening cinders. On closer inspection, viewers discover that the base of the oversized necklace is made of fluffy grey felt, with overlays of shimmery plexiglas pieces.

Jillian Matthews MFA 13 JM created Dark Energy #1 and Viewing Device #1, a series of geometric necklaces from materials that make up the most cold-resistant scuba suits: vinyl, black paint and neoprene. The angular pieces were inspired by Matthews' own interest in space, light and emptiness. The former architect is also showing Drawing Form, a series of wood-paneled brooches made of mahogany, bookbinding linen and brass.

And Kendra Pariseault MFA 13 JM is exhibiting Amelia, a floor-length dress that would aptly fit in with Lady GaGa's most showy red carpet attire. The striking orange and red-hued garment is primarily made of malleable latex and wood fiber, with a series of glittery wing-like protrusions bursting out from the torso. To give the garment even more pop, Pariseault encrusted a thick coating of shiny gems along the hemline.

Attending the exhibition opening last week, Painting grad student Kyle Hittmeier MFA 14 PT joined other viewers in being thoroughly impressed with the quality of the J+M graduate students' work. “The level of craftsmanship and creativity is superior,” he notes. “Every piece here is just so well executed.” –Abigail Crocker

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tags: graduate, Jewelry + Metalsmithing

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The men in this 1903 portrait class were serious about the business at hand.