WHERE DO I BELONG

As for those of us fascinated and motivated by the specific complexities of our field, I find myself to be simultaneously perplexed and frustrated all too often. Although my current research here in Italy tends to leave me and the promotion of my own work on the back burner (I am fighting the good fight !), I cannot just let what I’ve done in the past sit in limbo—both physically, in boxes in the shop adjacent to my house on Whidbey Island where no one currently lives, and non-physically, on the fucking internet waiting to be looked at and thought about. Neither situation is ideal, obviously. Therefore, just like any person who makes and wants to share what they make with the world, I have been looking for juried shows to apply to. And, yes, there are some indeed, all pinned down to the world of jewelry, seemingly apt for those who call themselves any combination of the word jeweler or the like, and I myself decide at times that I’m comfortable here, just for the sake of getting the work out into the world. And if I’m going to be honest, I think my work is good; I do, some days anyway, and it hasn’t really gone anywhere, except like I said, in boxes and into the abyss that is our virtual universe. But I have run into problems even in the simplest of applications for these juried art jewelry shows, that vary internationally and by theme (I use the word theme hesitantly, as some in the field tend to not be given any, sadly.)

Let’s look at this year’s Cominelli Foundation Awards for Contemporary Jewellery. Sponsord by the AGC (Italy’s contemporary jewelry association). One of the AGC’s main objectives is to promote and spread the value of contemporary jewelry culture by creating such events. Here’s a little blurb from the Cominelli Foundation that sums up their values well:

Contemporary jewellery today represents a sector of advanced research and experimentation of new expressive languages as well as exploiting the personal ornament concept. In close contact with the international community, the association follows up a series of initiatives aimed at promoting a constructive and synergistic confrontation with other artistic and productive realities.

Pretty… progressive, no? For Italy, I would say yes. They also use phrases like “the research world,” and “new directions” while referring to chosen jewelers as “artists”. Bravo, bravo. Unfortunately, there’s a big fat però lurking under what sounds like a new venue for artists such as myself. Now I will have you read their aim for those entering the competition:

Target: The exhibition was conceived as an opportunity for goldsmith artists and designers to show their work and contribute to further spreading the knowledge of contemporary jewellery. There is no set limit to the materials they use, the measurements must not, however, exceed 15×15 cm and diameter 25 cm max.

And that, my friends, officially counts me out. And WHY? So the work can continue to be placed under plexi glass, in a god damn box? Real innovative, guys. Here we have another show dictated by old conventions of what jewelry was thought to be while expelling those recreating the medium with bigger and better ideas. Material exploration isn’t enough these days. We’ve been there. Over and over. And that’s not to say that some of the work out there that continues to push material in new ways can’t be groundbreaking, but the size limitation excludes so many artists working on a bigger scale, with more thought to where the work should live in the world and what the work can say. It’s jewelry but not just jewelry. Why the limitations as such?

It also ain’t ideal that the foundation is so strongly resting and relying on their desire to simply grow the collection; on one hand it’s great, knowing there are people out there that want the work and want others to see it. But why this way? And like I’ve said before, another show just about new jewelry is so banal and more often doesn’t say anything bout the content within each and every piece thoughtfully applied by each and every artist. If they are going to call these people artists, why must they submit to another plexi case if this is not the desired environment? What if my piece belongs projected on an entire wall? What if my piece needs to be felt in someone’s hands or on someone’s skin?  What if it needs to be seen on someone by someone else? But let’s not forget, this is in Italy. At least the country is becoming a little more aware of itself. And so many of the successful Italian artists/jewelers/goldsmiths/whatever have worked within these limitations happily, making work that satisfies with visual contemplation, not tactile contemplation (BUT IT’S SUPPOSED TO TACTLE, RIGHT?). What’s the answer here?

RITUAL, the annual contemporary jewelry show of the Gallery of Art in Legnica, Poland, also has a size limitation; the piece must fit inside a case that measures 40x40x35 cm (about 16x16x14 inches), and they say with prior permission, arrangements can be made for bigger work. Ok, I’m interested… and the size I can work with, mostly. But the catch is that this show, to keep up with their 30-year-long tradition, they write that “the inclusion of silver in the work is expected.” I’m out, once again. FANTASTIC (it’s in Poland, forgodsake, anyway?) Too bad, because this show’s theme is quite a bit more specific than that of Cominelli. To read more about it, click here.

And there are more, with their own set of problems. The real good ones had deadlines in October (Talente 2012 and Schmuck, both in Munich). Preziosa, as I’ve mentioned, was cancelled. A pity, no size or material requirements there. There’s also New Traditional Jewelry 2012 in Amsterdam; deadline isn’t until June but their theme of NEW NOMADS requires that you make a piece specifically for the theme (which I can’t really do at the moment), AND you have to distinguish yourself in one of two categories, the first being “established” jewelry artists, and the second being those in their final year of school… which I don’t fit into either of.

So then, what? Where is it I belong? Apparently I either make shitty jewelry or shitty art, considering neither sphere seems to have an environment right for me. The art world doesn’t want me, because of the burden the word jewelry seems to carry with it, as I’ve been addressing. And apparently neither does the jewelry world, because my work don’t fit into a god damn case or something. SOMEONE JUST GIVE ME A WALL IN A SEMI-DARK ROOM AND A PROJECTOR, PLEASE?

And this is why, few readers of mine, I am here, in Italy, on this grant. To sort out all of these questions and other similarly confusing and forever unsolvable problems. What is it I do? Who is it that I call myself? Where is a place that my work can go? To answer these questions, I feel it best to just create something new, shall we?

WHO IS WITH ME? LET’S PLAY HOUSE AND MAKE A HOME

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