JEWELRY /JEWELERS HAVE BEEN KNOWN TO BE LUMPED INTO THE CRAFT CATEGORY. AND IF IT ISN’T CRAFT, IT’S THE DECORATIVE ARTS, SUPPLEMENTAL ARTS, MINOR ARTS, APPLIED ARTS…ETC ETC.

THE C WORD IS BEYOND A LIMITATION. YES, GOOD WORK IN JEWELRY HAS ALL OF THE CHARACTERISTICS THAT MAKE UP THE CLASSIFIERS THAT DEFINE THE C WORD, BUT IT IS MORE THAN THAT. AND EVERYBODY KNOWS THAT THE ART. VRS CRAFT CONVERSATION IS OLD AND:

CONTEMPORARY JEWELRY BRIDGES THE GAP BETWEEN THESE TWO SEEMINGLY DISPARATE CATEGORIES. JEWELRY IS BUILT WITH THE FOUNDATIONS OF BOTH.

GLENN ADAMSON, AUTHOR OF THINKING THROUGH CRAFT, KNOWS WHAT’S UP. JEWELRY IS NOT JUST ANATOMIZED BY BUT ENTIRELY DEFINED BY THIS STRUGGLE, WHICH IN TURN, MAKES IT AUTONOMOUS. CONTEMPORARY JEWELRY IS WHAT IT IS– DISTINCT THROUGH ITS INABILITY TO BE CONCRETELY PLACED INTO A BOX THAT PEOPLE CAN EASILY NAME AND UNDERSTAND.

TO HELP DECLARE THE UNIQUENESS AND MULTI DIMENSIONALITY OF THE FIELD, WE HAVE BEEN FORCED TO INVENT NEW VOCAB ! UNFORTUNATELY, MOST OF IT SOUNDS STUPID.

HOW DO YOU INTRODUCE YOURSELF AND/OR YOUR WORK?

AND EVEN IF YOU USE ANY OF THE ABOVE TITLES, WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU SAYING YOU DO?

WHAT IS CONTEMPORARY JEWELRY ANYWAY??? HOW DO YOU EXPLAIN IT?

THE FIELD NEEDS TO BE MORE CRITICALLY DEFINED !!

THE FOLLOWING IS A DIAGRAM THAT I HAVE INVENTED, INCLUDING CATEGORIES THAT CONTEMPORARY JEWELRY ARTISTS ARE WORKING WITHIN TODAY.

3 MAIN CATEGORIES AND THREE SUBCATEGORIES DEFINE THE FIELD:

[NOTE: THIS IS A WORK IN PROGRESS AND CONTENT IS SUBJECT TO CHANGE DEPENDENT UPON MY RESEARCH AND DIALOG WITH OTHERS]

DISCLAIMERS!

*EVERY CATEGORY OF CONTEMPORARY JEWELRY HAS THE FOLLOWING IN COMMON. READ CAREFULLY! THIS IS WHERE THE MEAT IS:

•EACH PIECE OR BODY OF WORK IS THE PRODUCT OF RESEARCH, STUDY AND INVESTIGATION, WHETHER THAT BE VISUAL, MATERIAL, RELATIONAL, SOCIOLOGICAL, INTELLECTUAL ETC

•NO MATTER THE SUBJECT OF THE WORK, THE PIECE IS ALWAYS REFERENCING JEWELRY BECAUSE IT IS, INDEED, JEWELRY; OBJECTS INTENDED TO ADORN A BODY.

•WITH THIS COMES THE NATURAL CONNOTATIONS OF IDENTITY, SOCIOECONOMICS, SOCIAL HIERARCHIES, TRADITIONAL PERCEPTIONS OF JEWELRY AS A SOCIAL SIGNIFIER, A SYMBOL, A RITUAL TOOL, A LUXURY, ITS RELATION TO FASHION AND ACCESSORY, CRAFT, PRODUCTION, SUPPLEMENT, ETC.

•CONTEMPORARY JEWELRY PIECES ARE GENERALLY ONE-OF-A-KIND OBJECTS OR PART OF A BODY OF WORK, NOT A PRODUCTION SERIES (BUT CONCEPTUAL EXCEPTIONS DO EXIST).

•ARTISTS HAVE BEEN TRAINED AS JEWELERS AND/OR GOLDSMITHS AT VARIOUS INSTITUTIONS INCLUDING FINE ART ACADEMIES AND POSSIBLE APPRENTICESHIPS.

•VALUE IS NOT AWARDED BASED SOLELY ON MATERIALS BUT RATHER CONCEPT, RESEARCH, TIME, EXECUTION, COMPOSITION, COMMUNICABILITY… IF IT ALL WORKS.

•THE ABILITY TO WEAR THE OBJECT EASILY/COMFORTABLY (AKA “WEARABILITY”) USUALLY DOES NOT MATTER TO ARTIST, IS CONSTANTLY BEING PUSHED OR PART OF OVERALL CONCEPT.

•PROCESS AND MATERIAL ARE INHERENT FUNDAMENTS, NOT WHOLE CONCEPTS. THESE DECISIONS ARE A REFLECTION OF THE IDENTITY OF THE ARTIST AND MAY OR MAY NOT ENHANCE THE IDEA BEHIND THE PIECE. FOR EXAMPLE, SOME MAY SAY METAL IS A MEDIUM, BUT ONE CAN ARGUE THAT JEWELRY IS THE MEDIUM.

•THERE IS A DUALITY OF IDENTITY PRESENT IN EVERY PIECE, THAT OF THE MAKER AND THAT OF THE WEARER. WHAT DOES THE ARTIST WANT TO COMMUNICATE? WHAT DOES THAT SAY ABOUT THEM AND THEIR THOUGHT PROCESSES? AND FURTHER, WHAT DOES THE WEARER WANT TO EXPRESS ABOUT THEMSELVES WHEN DECIDING TO BE ADORNED?

•JEWELRY IS MULTI-INTERACTIVE, ALWAYS. A PERFORMANCE, A RELATIONSHIP.

•A PIECE WILL ALWAYS BE SEEN ON AND OFF THE BODY, THEREFORE MORE THAN ONE AUDIENCE AND/ OR PARTICIPANT EXISTS. THE AUDIENCE CAN BE CONSIDERED INFINITE. FOR EXAMPLE:

A) WEARER: ONE WHO KEEPS/OWNS THE PIECE

B) OBSERVER: ONE WHO SEES PIECE ON WEARER

C) BORROWER: ONE WHO WANTS TO WEAR THE PIECE OF SOMEONE ELSE

D) PARTNER: ONE WHO MAY HAVE GIFTED THE OBJECT

E) VOLUNTEER: ONE WHO MAY HAVE FOUND THE OBJECT                        ETC

•WITH THAT SAID, THE POTENTIAL RELATIONSHIPS A PIECE POSSESS ARE ALSO INFINITE. PERHAPS A CONVERSATION IS INITIATED. PERSONAL STORIES ARE TOLD AND HEARD. PERSON TOUCHES OBJECT, OBJECT IS NOW BEING SHARED. AND THESE POTENTIAL RELATIONSHIPS OCCUR ONLY AFTER HAVING LEFT THE GALLERY OR WHATEVER UNIQUE  ENVIRONMENT PREVIOUSLY CREATED BY ARTIST FOR DISPLAY. COLLECTIVE RELATIONSHIPS BUILD WITH TIME.

ENVIRONMENT, OR WHERE THE PIECE LIVES IN THE WORLD, MAY ALSO BE SEEN AS INFINITE. FOR EXAMPLE:

A) THE INTENDED ENVIRONMENT OF THE ARTIST. THIS CAN BE ANYTHING; IMAGINARY, THEORETICAL, PHYSICAL… ANYTHING.

B) WHERE THE KEEPER DECIDES TO PLACE PIECE ON BODY OR CLOTHING, OR WHERE PERSON DECIDES TO GO ONCE ADORNED.

C) SOCIOLOGICAL ENVIRONMENTS; WHERE DOES ONE PUT THE PIECE WHEN NOT BEING WORN?

D) MOOD AFFECTS ENVIRONMENT. WHEN/HOW DOES WEARER DECIDE TO TAKE THE PIECE OUT INTO THE WORLD?                 ETC

•CONTEMPORARY JEWELRY IS A MANIFESTATION OF THE HUMAN CONDITION.  AS SUCH, CONTEMPORARY JEWELRY IS INHERENTLY CONCEPTUAL.

 

…AND NOW…. THE DIAGRAM.

THE ARTISTS INCLUDED IN THIS DIAGRAM WERE CRITICALLY CHOSEN BASED ON THE QUALITY OF THEIR WORK. THEY ARE COLOR CODED BY COUNTRY IN WHICH THEY WERE PRIMARILY TRAINED. BIRTH YEARS ARE ALSO INDICATED WHEN AVAILABLE. (CLICK TO MAKE LARGER)

THE FOLLOWING IS THE DIAGRAM REGIONALIZED. WHO IS DOING WHAT, WHERE?

NOW LET’S PLAY A GAME!

WHAT IS “ART” AND WHAT IS “JEWELRY” ?

IS THE AUTHOR OF THE PIECE BELOW AN “ARTIST” OR A “JEWELER” ?

JEWEL OR ART?

WHAT IS WHAT? 

WHAT IS ART AND WHAT IS JEWELRY? 

DID THE SAME PERSON RESPONSIBLE FOR THE FOLLOW THREE THINGS? 

WHAT ARE THESE OBJECTS? 

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