Category Archives: Meta-ranting

Picture Perfect Parure

On picture day in second grade, I snuck in some of my favorite jewelry to wear for my school portrait. I was immortalized wearing a necklace, a brooch, and a pair of earrings that I certainly didn’t leave the house wearing that morning. It was pretty surprising for my family to receive the packet of photos documenting me in all my bejeweled glory.

Even at eight years old, I had a desire to be photographed in my favorite jewelry. I thought the jewelry was beautiful, and therefore I would be beautiful. Despite the fact that none of the jewelry matched, it was a parure that made me feel so special, I don’t think I ever took a school portrait that was a memorable since then.

I like to look at pictures of other women wearing their jewelry. I hunt through books at the library, and scan the internet for images of women displaying their collection of jewels. For a while now, I’ve been collecting portraits of ladies decked out in full regalia, wearing a menagerie of diamonds, pearls, and other precious bobbles. There is something about the way that these women look, the expressions on their face, that reflects how the jewelry makes them feel on the inside. As if the weight of the adornment actually lightens their mood and their raises their spirits. Like a child playing dress-up.

Here is a sampling of some particularly nice images below. I concentrated on women wearing pearls for this selection. Unfortunately, I don’t have names for all of the ladies.

Above: Empress Alexandra Feodorovna

above: Grand Duchess Maria Pavlovna

Awesome! Awesome! Awesome!

Yesterday I went to go see Kirsten Hassenfeld’s exhibit, Dans la Lune, at the David Winton Bell Gallery. If you couldn’t tell by the title of this post, it was pretty phenomenal! As it turns out, dans la lune is French for “He’s in outer space,” or “He’s on another planet;” however, it is also used as a slang term for being drugged or groggy. The title is pretty appropriate, as the ethereal quality of the installation does completely transport the viewer to a new space.

On display were six large scale hanging sculptures made entirely out of paper, velum, and foam-core. Made with the most ordinary of materials, the work is loaded with ornamental references to luxury goods, classical architecture, jewelry, and decorative arts. The resulting hybrid forms are endlessly adorned and heavy with the indulgence of ornament.

The visual stimulation from the opulent swags, chains, gems-like crystals, and honeycomb beads are made palatable by the stark white color palate. The use of the white paper neutralizes the abundant information that is a result of Hassenfeld’s thousands of hours of work cutting, gluing, folding, and painting layer upon layer of paper. Yet, there are still slight color variations within the installation. Some of the paper has a warmer tonal quality, while some components have a cooler tonal quality. As the color white shifts to blue, ecru, and ochre, the identity of the paper takes on a biological feel. It seems more alive with the loss of sterility.

The fluctuation in scale involved in this piece transcends the viewer to another world. The vibration between the artwork and the viewer is in a constant state of tension as new elements constantly reveal themselves to the viewer. Traditionally minute ornaments are enlarged to dwarf the viewer, while there are also elements that have been shrunken down exponentially.

I spent a long time in the Bell Gallery experiencing the installation. When I was still for long enough, I was able to notice that each hanging sculpture was slightly twisting and swaying. I could feel the artwork flexing in space, as the paper was quietly breathing or slowly dancing. It momentarily gave me a sense of vertigo, and it seems as though I was a little bit dans la lune.

Gray matter

Since recently reading Jamie Bennet’s article, In the Midst of Color: reflections on color’s inescapable presence, I have been thinking a lot about the color gray. More of a tool than a color, it is a utilitarian mix of black and white created to determine the value of other colors in its proximity. Gray is a ‘service color’ which allows other ‘real’ colors to appear more potent. Bennet comments that if you are interested in the strategic use of color, you must address gray.

The color gray is a neutralizer, allowing for the material to succeed to form, and for the viewer to view the form of an object without obstruction. Gray can also erase history, pretext, and interpretation. It is a democratic tool, subsidizing an object in to its more primal elements.

Despite the intrinsic qualities associated with gray, it seems that our contemporary culture is adverse to this color. We spend hour dying gray hairs, movies won’t be watched if they are black & white (gray), gray days are percieved as dismal, and gray suits are associated with a conformist and boring life style.

Personally, I have long since stopped trying to hide my gray hairs, and feel that it’s time to embrace this wonderful hue into our aesthetic vocabulary.


The end of summer means that it’s time again for Metalsmith Magazines exhibition in print. This years exhibition, Saturated: Color and Metal, focuses on the visual experience that color brings to jewelry. In addition to displaying the work of 34 artists, Jamie Bennett wrote an article, In the Midst of Color: Reflections on color’s inescapable presence, that accompanies the exhibition.

The thesis of Jamie Bennett’s article is that color is incrementally and strategically determined, from conception to reception. Color comes preloaded: if you are working with concrete or pollen, the chromatic value is there, but just as significant is the material’s associative meaning. Color is colored by the conditions of its embodiment, yet when transformed by inventive and knowing artists it can gain powerful new significance within the context of contemporary metalwork.

Bennett also distinguishes between the use of color as an aesthetic tool and as a conceptual indicator. After reading his article, I decided to map out the characteristics of the two different methodologies. It’s interesting how many connectors there are between concept and aesthetics, the two categories pushing against one another, with the only divider between them being intent.