“All That Glitters,” the first national competitive exhibition of fine art glass and jewelry in Arizona, featured the work of 17 jewelers from all parts of the United States. The jurors were David Pimentel, Associate Professor of Art, Arizona State University and a Distinguished Member of the Society of North American Goldsmiths, and Kate Elliott, a dealer of contemporary glass art and board member of the Glass Artists Society.
All That Glitters
The von Grabill Gallery, Scottsdale, AZ
January 7-28, 1984
The jewelry selected for the exhibition represented a wide range of esthetic interpretations. First prize went to John Lee Hays for his dramatic sculptural pendants, earrings, bracelets and belt buckles fashioned of gold and silver, which employ unusually shaped faceted stones as focal points. Suggesting a space-age imagery, Hays’s works utilize classic forms created by angular shapes that are softened by the interplay of organic textures and rich colorful patinas. With great sensitivity Hays accents these textural planes with delicate gold wires and tiny beads of gold. Of particular interest was a pendant of gold and silver, scored and folded to create a lightweight monolithic form. A large amethyst is the focal point of this pendant which also features a handsome gold and silver hand-woven chain that is beautifully integrated into the total design of the piece.
A distinct contrast to the precious jewelry of John Hays was the work of Debra Chase, second prize winner. Her Damsel Fly hat is made of aluminum screening, copper, plastic, glass, springs and steel wire. Chase designs costumes for dance performances, creating jeweled cloths, hats and ornaments. The opening reception featured members of the Desert Dance Theatre, a professional modern dance troupe, that creatively displayed the fine art jewelry of selected artists from the show. Chase’s hat and fan ornament needed such a theatrical presentation, When seen hanging on the gallery wall, the objects were much less effective and raised the question of why they were fine art jewelry.
In his juror’s statement David Pimentel commented that artists are no longer bound to precious materials in creating contemporary art jewelry but may use any materials which suitably express their feelings and concepts. This attitude is exemplified in the flamboyant jewelry of F.B. Fogg, third prize winner. Working with colorful laminations of handmade paper, she also includes cotton, bone, fur, leather and clay in her jewelry. Made of 50 separate pieces, Fogg’s Night Blooming Neckpiece was a multicolored beaded necklace with a large floral accent of red and orange paper splashed with numerous tiny beads and wires. The work was painterly, fun and inexpensive. Her bracelet of purples, reds, magentas and oranges called Aztec Cull seemed a miniature painting in paper and leather to adorn the wrist.
The jewelry of David La Plantz also represented the use of nonprecious materials in an innovative way. His brooches, earrings and pendants were predominantly made of anodized aluminum constructed with gold connections. La Plantz uses his jewelry to express a sophisticated graphic sensitivity laced with a sense of play. Starting with a spontaneous “doodle” on paper, La Plantz develops his ideas into highly refined graphic creations that incorporate color and intricate patterns of engraved lines and dots.
Another innovator in the use of nontraditional materials in jewelry is Linda Watson-Abbott. She effectively uses permanent marking pens to graphically decorate her silver brooches. Amid My Maps of the Canyon was an undulating sculptured ribbon brooch with delicate line drawing in red and blue to suggest the rock strata. Undulating form was also the visual theme of Ribbon Candy Brooch by Beverly Penn Baron. This brooch and her earrings entitled Mobile III were exquisitely crafted constructions of silver, copper and other metals showing consummate skill in marriage of metals. Her circular bracelets of silver laced with delicate silver and gold wires created lightweight forms, with elegant sculptural simplicity.
Equally concerned with elegance is Jane Groover, who received the von Grabill purchase award. Groover’s bracelets of sterling silver, gold, pearls from Japan and natural slices of agate and amethyst crystals showed her personal sensitivity to materials and forms. Her work emanates a sensual quality through the use of soft subtle color and graceful curvilinear forms.
The beads of Dudley and Betsy Giberson effectively presented the use of glass in a jewelry context. Of special note was the beautiful necklace of hand-drawn, sand-tumbled, acid etched Latticino glass beads. The graduated cylindrical beads were frosted, with a color accent on the inside, creating an illusion of depth. Candy-striped beads were also used as accents. Inspired by ancient Roman, Egyptian and Phoenician trade beads, the Gibersons’ contemporary necklaces update the traditions of ancient beadwork.
Laurie Peters’ White Firmament combined an asymmetrical, highly polished ivory form dotted with diamonds with a piercing gold taper to create a dramatic neckpiece with the illusion of motion. Her work, along with that of Randy and Janie Polk, is concerned with a high level of refinement. The Polks, an Arizona husband and wife team, incorporate raised settings of an unusual and rare purple gemstone called Royal Lavulite as well as jade, coral, tourmaline, garnets and diamonds into their gold bracelets, earrings and rings. Their work represents a style closest to that of traditional jewelry concepts. Kate Watson’s jewelry, like that of the Polks, shows consideration for the human form. Her intricately woven fine silver neckpieces of multilinked chains softly conform to the wearer’s contours like cloth. Using cloisonné enamel accents, her necklaces demonstrate the ancient technique of chainmaking called “strap work” dating back to 2400 B. C. Her visual images also reflect an appreciation of the intricacies of Celtic art. Watson’s skill in creating impeccably crafted functional clasps for her necklaces is notable.
The work represented in ”All That Glitters” was essentially wearable, fulfilling the gallery’s criteria of being brilliantly attractive, rich and exceptionally crafted ornament. The work of the 17 jewelers represented gave a strong but still somewhat limited view of contemporary jewelry. Greater participation and a more daring attitude in the selection process on the part of the jurors and gallery owners would further the goal to recognize these media as fine art. Nevertheless, this show provided a wonderful opportunity to educate the public to the concerns of contemporary art jewelry as well as to reach a clientele who would enjoy owning and wearing such work. Vicki and Charles von Grabill deserve praise for sponsoring “All That Glitters.” It was a good first national competitive exhibition of fine art glass and jewelry in Arizona and the von Grabills should be encouraged to host an expanded second.