The work of Sofia Calderwood seems to be asking, Why do we wear jewelry? Is it to gain the attention of others? And if so, why not point directly to parts of the body widely thought of as physical hot spots of excitement? Certainly, many other artists have expressed sexuality in an overt way. What is interesting about Calderwood’s work is that it requires a conscious commitment on the part of the wearer to “deal with the attention that wearing the pieces excites.”

Pink Anthers Powder Box, 2000
sterling silver, pipe cleaners, powder
2 x 2 x 1 1/2″

Pink Anthers, a pair of earrings, draws attention through fuzzy caterpillar-like hairs made from bright pink pipe cleaners. We are further engaged by the pink powder that falls from the fuzzy forms as they’re worn, turning the wearer into a virtual performance artist. The powder, which is lustrous when rubbed into the skin and has a pleasant faint odor, comes in an accompanying box allowing the wearer to “recharge the work at will. The most striking feature of this work is the strong sexual and tactile feelings it arouses; the earrings make you want to grab them, and feel them, and experience the textures of the material used.

Florets, another pink pipe cleaner creation with its own recharging powder box, again produces immediate dialogues among the work, the wearer, and the beholder. However, this piece offers the possibility of intimately sharing the tactility and lustrous powder, since, as a bracelet, it is on a more accessible part of the body. Whomever the wearer touches is left with a physical memory, or trace, of the encounter. With this piece, Calderwood entices the wearer into a physical exchange with her art and other people, referencing jewelry’s social and sexual dimension and adding a new twist to the tradition of shaking hands.

Carpels II, 2001
sterling silver, earplugs, perfume
2 x 2 x 1/2″
Florets, 2000
sterling silver, false eyelashes, pipe cleaners, powder
5 x5 x1/2″
Carpels I, 2000
sterling silver, earplugs, perfume
4 x 4 x 1 1/2″
Pollen Sac, 2000
sterling silver, bronzing powder balls
12 1/2 x 1 x 1″

Pollen Sac, a sterling silver necklace designed to dispense bronzing powder, is intended to “rest in the cleavage of the wearer” and create a bronzed area for all to see. While this work is in no way subtle, it relies less on bright colors and more on its location on the wearer’s body to elicit attention.

Some of Calderwood’s work is more notable for its visual impact than its subtle suggestion of a person’s intimate activities or thoughts. For example, Carpels a bracelet made with sterling silver and dyed foam earplugs, impresses one with its brightly colored, snub-nose forms. Calderwood’s transformation of the lowly earplug is both beautiful and unexpected, and renders the bracelet something more like a sculpture. Indeed, it is not difficult to imagine a giant version of this piece in the lobby of an office building or on a college campus.

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