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MacNeil, a Master of the Medium

MacNeil, a Master of the Medium

Linda MacNeil 76 SC began her jewelry career when she was just a teenager – twisting wire from her father’s basement workbench and borrowing her mother’s car to sell the earrings, necklaces and belts she crafted to passersby in Hanover, NH. Today, she is known for her bold pieces in metal, stone and glass – work that is part sculpture, part architecture and part poetry.

On March 27 MacNeil will be among five artists to receive national recognition as winners of the 2011 Master of the Medium award, which is presented every other year by the James Renwick Alliance, a nonprofit affiliated with the Smithsonian’s Renwick Gallery in Washington, DC. She has been selected as a master in the Metal/Jewelry category. In addition to having work in the permanent collection at the Renwick, her metal and glass sculpture and jewelry has been acquired by the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston and the Mint Museum of Craft and Design in Charlotte, NC, among others.

“My style and approach to designing jewelry comes from a strong desire to join the historical artistic community,” MacNeil says. “That has been my inspiration. I make a conscious effort to change and grow as an artist. Even though I return to past successful concepts, making different and new work is my constant goal.”

MacNeil, who works out of her studio in New Hampshire, is part of an extended clan of artists. The daughter of an apparel designer and an industrial designer, she is married to glass artist and fellow RISD alumnusDan Dailey MFA 72 CR and has two grown children, one an architect, the other a sculptor.

In high school, MacNeil pinned her first creations to a cork board and opened up the back of her mother’s VW wagon to display her wares in town. “I hung out, talking to people on the street, loading coins into the meter,” she recalls. “The experience helped me to improve my craft and my skills with people.” Through her studies at RISD, she was able to further refine her skills and develop a more conceptual and critical approach to working. “My work has grown and changed with time,” she concedes, “but the same need to make jewelry is still with me.”

In her essay,Linda’s Web, art critic Helen W. Drutt English describes MacNeil’s artistic vision as  “singular, bypassing many influences that appear to dominate 20th-century jewelry.” She notes that the artist’s work is “extremely beautiful, concentrating on form and color” and that although her preferred materials are “not inherently precious, [they] become precious as the rondelles of glass and carved elements are set like elaborate stones in the metal.”

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