RISD’s Jewelry + Metalsmithing department launches a virtual pop-up exhibition promoting work by recent graduates.
Narratives in Metal
The Jewelry + Metalsmithing Triennial, on display through February 20 in Woods-Gerry Gallery, offers visitors a look at what graduate-level students are producing at RISD and a glimpse into the journey that undergraduate students embark on between their sophomore and senior years.
The show pays tribute to longtime RISD faculty member Michael Glancy MFA 80 GL, who passed away in 2020. Known for his alluring electroforming technique, kindness and sense of humor, Glancy taught at RISD for nearly 40 years. “He was an amazing colleague,” says Department Head Tracy Steepy, who helped to organize the tribute. “We asked alumni to send images or text reflecting on his influence as an educator and got an enormous response.”
“Considering how one’s work is presented is something we emphasize in the program.”
Steepy and Graduate Program Director Timothy Veske-McMahon designed the clever wooden pegboard system that unifies the displays throughout the show and creates a less formal atmosphere than traditional glass vitrines. “It’s an educational moment for the students as well,” Steepy notes. “Considering how one’s work is presented is something we emphasize in the program.”
Work in the gallery devoted to sophomore students is arranged by assignment, allowing viewers to compare the wide range of responses to studio prompts supporting metalsmithing techniques such as soldering, piercing, filing and folding. A particularly illuminating series of pendants shows student approaches to transforming stock tube materials into one-of-a-kind pieces.
Moving into the junior gallery, we see casting, chasing, repoussé and enameling techniques as well as a smattering of digital design. “At this point, students are making good progress toward seamlessly combining skills and toolkits,” says Steepy.
The largest gallery presents work by seniors and graduate students, beginning with a series of “anti-badges” by Chinese student Valerie Ho MFA 23 JM critiquing overzealous police response to nonviolent protesters in Hong Kong. An adjacent display of work by Winnie Wang MFA 23 JM speaks to the tenacious MeToo movement in China, where activists advanced the discourse despite government attempts to silence them.
“A lot of our first-year grad students are taking on political and cultural subjects that align with their values in powerful ways,” says Steepy. Other examples on view come from Ayesha Mohyuddin MFA 23 JM, whose work attempts to document Islamic culture and rituals.
“A lot of our first-year grad students are taking on political and cultural subjects that align with their values in powerful ways.”
Senior Anna Van Ness 22 JM, who is pursuing a concentration in Nature-Culture-Sustainability Studies alongside her Jewelry + Metalsmithing major, works primarily with recycled metals, drawing attention to where materials come from and what impact their use has on the planet. “It’s always fascinating to see how students’ studio work is influenced by their academic concentrations in the liberal arts,” says Steepy.
“The last couple of years have been tough,” she adds, “but the program feels really healthy again, and the students remain incredibly engaged.”
February 14, 2022