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)

 

chrysanthemum_red  chrysanthemums

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.)

 

 

 



LUSCIOUS

 

So, when my best friend sees something she really likes–something she desires in a visceral way–she says she wants to put it in her mouth. This could be anything but it is usually something inanimate, something that you would not really eat, but that you want to “devour” in some way. I love that this is her reaction and I know exactly what she means. For me, the qualities of lusciousness also call into question ideas of decadence, the baroque, luxury, consumption, preciousness and many other concepts that seem related but are not necessarily so. The following address these topics in one way or another while creating objects that I would describe as exquisite (and, maybe…, edible).

 

 

Lauren Fensterstock, Grey Garden (2003; quilled paper; 20 x 25 in.)

 

 

Caroline GoreSugarcoat from the Beauty: Poison series (1 ounce of 24K gold, coated with sugar, arranged in a hanging installation)

 

 

Green Planks (2007, cast sugar, polyurethane, 78 x 3/4″ x varying widths)

 

Rebcecca Holland, Glaze (2003; 800 square feet of poured candy)

 

 

Jolynn Krystosek, detail (two above) and Verdure Series, Untitled 7 (2007; wax; 13 x 19 in.)

 

 

 

 

Roberley Bell, Flower Blob #64. (2005; cast foam with dyed plastic and flocking; 16 1/2 x 18 x 7 in.)

 

Tara Strickstein (detail of installation)

 

Shary Boyle Snowball (2006; porcelain and china paint; Collection of the Musée des beaux-arts de Montréal)


BIRDS OF PARADISE

I am intrigued by the persistent human inclination to connect with the broader natural world, especially when we model ourselves after other creatures/living things. This might be most obvious in the realm of clothes and adornment. This goes well beyond wearing representations of animals or other creatures (although those are the kinds of vintage garments that inspire this post). This is an echoing, in our human way, of the colors, patterns and arrangements of the feathers, fur, and design of other animals. And here we find only the beginning of the multiple and complex avenues this could lead us down. Where admiration could be predatory (killing leopards for the profit of their fur, crocodiles for their skin, birds for their feathers) or disruptive (when closed ecosystems become tourist destinations for the curious as well as the sincere) or benevolent (raising awareness of the existence and circumstances of species). This is the serious side of this conversation, what I want to draw attention to here is the celebratory side of this issue–with contemporary artists who, quoting nature, create something theatrical, something joyful, something of a spectacle. These gestures are reverential, analytical, often loving and, absolutely breath-taking.

Jesse Mathes, Partlet (Copper and Prismacolor, 36 x 26 x 17 in.)

Jullie Heffernan Self Portrait as Quarry, 2000, oil on canvas, 70 x 68 in. (A tiny bit different than the other works shown here but I am sure you will forgive me).

Molly Carter, Attirement for the Bride, 20 ft. train of dyed turkey feathers

Alexander McQueen, Spring 2008

Thea Tolsma, Rubber Neckpiece

Alexander McQueen, Spring 2008

A doubling up of the conversation in a modern representation of historical theatricality with the The “Ms. Oiseau Brooch” from Etsy’s paraphernalia


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.]