CURATING IN SPACE


The BODY in FRAGMENTS

In one way or another, we know the world through our bodies. They are complex machines–contained chaos, if you will–and infinitely fascinating. It is no surprise to me that artists, philosophers and sociologists (among many) return to the body as a site of investigation and exploration. The artists below offer an especially intriguing framework for considering the human body–they offer up adornment that fragments it and turns it into an object to be worn. A represented body could refer to someone specific or no one in particular–either way, when it is turned into jewelry and worn by someone it becomes a part of that body, the wearer’s body, and a cycle of meaning is created that consistently refers one to the other.

 

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Jessica Calderwood, Blink (enamel, copper and sterling silver)

 

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Heather White, Chrysanthemums (brooches, 2004, sterling silver and cast resin teeth)

 

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Julia Harrison, A Dozen Rose Buds (brooches of wood, lacquer, gouache, epoxy + more)

 

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Margaux Lange, The Kiss (sterling silver, plastic and epoxy resin)

 

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Sarah J.G. Wauzynski, Small Demands (brooch in sterling silver, egg tempera pigment and 18kt gold)

 

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Ineke Heerkens, Ring (leather)

 

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Stacy Rodgers, Breasts

 

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Melanie Bilenker, Feet (2007; brooch of gold, sterling silver, ebony, resin, pigment and hair, 1 x 7/8 x 3/8 in.)

 

 

 



BY A THREAD


I like the action suggested by the statement “by a thread.” Of course, without a verb, it also suggests something surreal–as if the thread itself was animate. And in a way, thread is active for a time–put in motion as it is drawn through the fibers. Thread always feels “alive” to me and I think this is partly due to the way it reflects a certain kind of labor and human presence. Embroidery and stitching, similar to other handcrafts, have been readdressed in recent years, with a coterie of artists reinvigorating the conversation and using the technique not only for its tactile or visual appeal but also as a way to touch on issues of labor, gender, handcraft, consumerism, notions of the decorative, time, individual and collective memory and personal history. This has happened all the while those who may have embroidered as a “pastime” continue to do so, creating an interesting dialogue across groups of people who have not always been engaged. Whether or not an artist learned how to embroider or stitch in their youth is always an interesting question–personal experience through several exhibitions would suggest that many (but not all) are indeed drawing on earlier memories or techniques learned (whether specifically embroidery or not). The following are just a few of those working the needle in some interesting and thought-provoking directions…(sorry there are not details for all, trust that these are as luscious as you think they might be.)

 

 

Anna Lorich, Embroidered Pillow Rings (Cloth, thread and cotton)

 


Recyled Ring’s Edith Cameo Brooch on Etsy

 

   

Angelo Filomeno, My Love Sings When the Flower is Near (The Philosopher and the Woman), (2007, Embroidery on silk shantung stretched over linen with crystals; 150 x 90 in.)

 

 

 

  

Stacey Lee Webber, Fancywork (one dollar bills and thread)

 

 

 

 

Yu-Chun Chen

 

 

   

Xiang Yang, Here and There

 

 

      

Reddish Studio, X-table (wood and thread)


HEADS UP

In contemporary “Western” society, personal choice dictates what individuals wear–while there are some institutions that mandate a particular kind of dress (the military, other occupations, “uniform” schools), it is obvious that we no longer live under the same kinds of demands (or even laws*) about dress that once structured lives (*sumptuary laws they were called, and some of them dictated different colors for different social classes or barred the wearing of lace and certain textiles). This is true for what we wear on our head and/or how we arrange our hair as well as the other ways in which we adorn our bodies. 

Through a contemporary lens certain types of hats would seem a little “dressed up.” Clearly those living in Western society today do think about what they put on their heads or how they wear their hair but, as with other elements of fashion, the form and use is a little different now than it once was. 

 

Whether considered high fashion, special occasion, or sculptural, these contemporary headpieces from designers on Etsy both channel the vintage vibe and create a dramatic profile. They call attention to why and how we wear hats and set the stage for a transformation of sorts. 

 

Piperewan’s “Feathery Flower Brooch”

 

TopsyTurvyDesign’s “Sabrina”

 

Emphasizing the head and hair but creating work that is slightly less “traditional,” the following draw on the social and cultural context of hair and hairstyling as they explore history, identity, fashion, ornamentation, value, luxury, adornment, design, the fantastical, spectacle, and the body. 

 

Hair Sculpture by Hrafnhildur Arnardottir (check out her super fantastic “Shoplifter” graphic!).  Arnardottir is drawn to hair as a “primal medium” (described as such because it grows on the body) and relishes hair as a material that can be so easily used to explore vanity, identity, and power.

 

 

Mother Nature’s Hood by Trudee Hill in collaboration with Mikko Seppa (aluminum, sterling silver, and viscous thread). Hill (and Seppa’s) hood is gloriously both ancient and sci-fi, simultaneously suggesting the decadence of past civilizations and the possibilities of future ones.

 

 

Afro Abe II by Sonya Clark . While it is not exactly a hat or adornment for the hair, this work poignantly sums up hair’s social significance. Over the years, Clark has explored the dynamic between hair and self, hair and others, hair and history, hair and identity. 

 

 

Tiffany Wigs by Kate Cusack. Using plastic (saran) wrap, Cusack created these wigs for a Tiffany & Co. window display. While they playfully mock the ludicrousness of the extreme hairstyles of 18th century aristocrats, they are also a tribute to such pageantry and are just, immeasurably, lovely.  

 

 

Cobra by Candace Kling (From the collection of Alex and Camille Cook). This headpiece is made of ribbon (folded, pressed, pleated, sewn, molded). Oh, yes. It is breath-taking. Kling, exploring the transformative power of garments, believes that headwear can be empowering and has created magnificent headpieces that combine historical precedent and fanciful conjecture.

 

 


 

[On a personal note, I am a hat wearer/head adorner. Pictures from my childhood indicate that this has always been so. And, um, I would proudly wear anything from this post.]