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.



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


chrysanthemum_red  chrysanthemums

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



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



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



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



Ineke Heerkens, Ring (leather)



Stacy Rodgers, Breasts



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






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