This article showcases various exhibitions in the form of collected exhibition reviews published in the 1998 Winter issue of the Metalsmith Magazine. This features Hiroko Sato-Pijanowski, Megan Lewis, Leilani Norman, and more!
Dimensions of the Mind: Jewelry and Metals
Abramson Gallery, Mendocino Art Center
December 2 – 27, 1996
By Susan Wood-Onstad
To step into the Mendocino Art Center’s A.D. Abramson Gallery is to step into another dimension. The gallery is small, well lit, and quiet, so that as I enter this space I have a sense that, amidst the work of these six metalsmiths, I have crossed into the dimensions of the mind. These emerging artists, Ling Yen Jones, Leilani Norman, Megan Lewis, Susan Neel, Mia Semingson, and Eric Trabert, all current or former students of David LaPlantz, share a common language. Using the vocabulary of base and noble metals, precious and semiprecious stones, and found objects they are able to cross the dimensional barrier between imagination and reality, translating their inner imagery into a concrete object or piece of jewelry.
Ling Yen Jones, curator of the show, did a remarkable job of choosing artists whose work complemented and supported each other. The pieces presented are a varied yet harmonious body of work. Her ability to organize, however, does not outshine the objects she contributed to the show. Her works’ primary objective is to adorn and flatter the body, and that objective is well met. She uses semiprecious stones, beads, and hand-woven chains to highlight the decorative elements of her necklaces: the clasps, which serve as the focal point of her necklaces. These decorative elements, designs which include birds and hands, are universally understood and accepted symbols, and therefore easily accessible to the general population. But camouflaged behind these images is a profoundly personal language which speaks of friendship, family, relationships, and responsibilities.
The dual nature of the shield, to defend and to contain, appears to be a strong element throughout Leilani Norman’s work. Norman’s three neckpieces, Pendant with Hand Made Chain #1, #2, and #3 are intriguing. All three have a rounded triangular shape, are slightly domed, and have a pierced opening on the surface through which one can glimpse the interior of the pieces. Pendant #2s surface of oxidized sterling has an etched linear pattern and is embellished with three citrines. The stones echo the orange patina of the interior, revealed through the pierced opening. Norman best translates meaning and emotion into form through her wearable objects. Call of the Ova is a copper chain mail girdle. Across the front of the girdle is a sterling silver heart shaped form, riveted to an acrylic rim, and crowned with 14k gold flames. But the heart is sagging and deflated. The tension created by this imagery was dispelled the moment I looked at the back of the piece, for there on the reverse side, behind an acrylic window, the heart contained a sterling silver fish swimming among pearls.
Megan Lewis’s skill is evident in her beautifully executed Fork and Spoon, Thimble and Spool, a fork and spoon set whose cool, sleek, linear handles are whimsically topped by a fabricated sterling thimble and spool of thread. It is, however, the naive quality of her narrative jewelry that enables Lewis to beautifully translate her inner spirit into material form. She uses sterling silver, copper, wood, and found objects in her pendant, The Queens Tools for Creativity, to illustrate the tools which, as an artist, she feels are the most important. The necklace is a simple hand made copper chain interspersed with blue buttons. Hanging from this chain are three small wooden houses, or shrines. Within each is a single image etched in silver, a heart, a hand, and a crown. Each symbol is mounted on a blue and yellow painted aluminum background. The heart, hand, and head are valuable tools indeed, but the overall childlike quality of the piece reminds the viewer that the ability to approach one work with a child’s sense of wonder and play, is the most important tool of all.
Susan Neel states: “nature prompts my passion to create.” Her neckpieces are a sensitive interplay of dimensions. Line, plane, and form interact to communicate the delicacy, strength, and balance of the natural world. In one of her more linear neckpieces, delicate curves of silver wire are linked together to form the neckpiece. Dropping from the wire, darkened silver streamers enfold the edges of a half moon shaped agate. Beneath the stone, a brief line of silver wire underscores the piece’s fluidity. Using sterling silver wire and sheet, along with semiprecious stones, Susan develops a calligraphy of nature.
Mia Seminson’s contribution the show, From Golden to Serpentine, is a strikingly multidimensional piece. It is an exploration of the cultural, social, and personal significance of hair. At the same time it points to the relationship of jewelry and photography, particularly the emergence of photography and the demise of Victorian hair jewelry. The piece is comprised of a series of six computer generated color images transferred onto aluminum. The first and last prints in the series are mounted on wooden framed glass panels, behind which is a mass of disheveled hair. The back of the frame is also glass, so that when one looks at the photograph, it appears to be suspended in the frame upon a cloud of golden hair. The four central photos are framed in brushed aluminum. Each frame is connected to a matching frame, in accordion fashion, containing a concordant brooch and hairpin. The entire piece sits on a shelf hung from the gallery wall, and evokes an air of nostalgia, rather like photos seen on a mantelpiece. But the imagery is much more contemporary. The jewelry is simple and straightforward, which serves to underscore the directness of its design, as well as its meaning. The fourth diptych, For My Beloved, shows the image of a woman whose hair is either pulled back and bound in a severe bun or cropped short. The accompanying brooch is made up of three acrylic lenses set in silver. Behind the central lens is a black and white photograph of an eye. On either side the two smaller lenses reveal women’s hair on one side, and a tangle of pubic hair on the other. The four diptychs represent a personal journal through which the artist investigates the assumptions and prejudices our society unthinkingly applies to hair. Although each element can stand on its own, the strength of the piece is in its entirety.
Eric Trabert’s work adds power and finesse to the show’s dimensions. The least figurative of all, Tiabert’s work is an investigation of shape, form, and sensual beauty. His technical skill and fine craftsmanship are the tools that enable him to produce these beautifully designed pieces. His neckpiece, The Continuity of Movement, is an elegant expression of line, form and motion. A three-sectioned pendulum is delicately suspended from a sterling silver neckwire. Attached to the wire, on either side of the pendulum, are two hemispheres transected by a heavy gold line, one vertical and the other horizontal, and set with a citrine in the center. Juxtaposed to the neckwire’s almost mechanical appearance, the pendulum’s split and forged bail sensuously wraps the wire. The upper element of the pendulum is a rounded, reticulated trapezoid with an oval garnet. The final element, a small citrine hangs like a punctuation mark at the bottom of the pendulum. Interestingly, rather than setting up a discordant tension, the organic tone of the reticulated elements harmonize with the mechanistic overtones of the neckpiece. His series of rings also demonstrate his ability to successfully blend strong, more formal, geometric forms with sensual textures and colors.
These artists, working individually and together, have managed to create a dimension which celebrates vision, imagery, structure, ornamentation, and passion.
Susan Wood-Onstad is a jeweler and writer living in northern California.
New Works by Hiroko Sato-Pijanowski
May 16 – June 14, 1997
By Nicole DesChamps
Viewers have probably been most familiar with Hiroko Sato-Pijanowski and her collaborative works with Gene Pijanowski for these artists’ introduction of the ancient Japanese technique of Mokume-Gane. Their research and determination became a quest for true mastery of process and technique in working with metal.
Pijanowski’s new work continues to serve in her quest for technical excellence; but it also serves as an example of inner harmony. This new work invites the viewer to a celebration of life, to be overcome with joy and graced with beauty. The collection of work created to explore this new beginning was comprised primarily of wearable jewelry with the exception of two large tabletop sculptures. These sculptures, the focal points upon entering the gallery, realistically depict the maple seed and amaryllis plants in an exaggerated scale. Life 1: Amaryllis, a wood carving sealed with 22k yellow gold and sterling silver leaf, is portrayed as a real plant within an actual planter. Standing approximately two and a half feet tall, Life 1: Amaryllis emanates grandeur with its vertical thrust and sleek contour. Both of these naturalistic sculptures were strategically placed among the displays of jewelry and set a comforting, yet powerful, ambiance for the room.
Viewing the jewelry encased under glass continued the journey into elegance. This new jewelry is a culmination of work depicting organic forms. It is jewelry in the purest form, emphasizing its beauty when worn. The Maple Seed earrings suggest the development from seedlings to flowers. This notion is followed by the idea of maturity and life represented in the Orchid series. Untainted by obvious clichés or obtrusive concept, Pijanowski attains a rare level of both realism and wearability in her Orchid series. The work is straightforward and clear in its visual representation, as well as in its role as functional jewelry.
The Orchid series is a collection consisting of over thirty pieces including necklaces, pearl enhancers, brooches, and earrings. The individual pieces are based on six different species of orchids. Each work is delicately crafted to create an elegant form in splendid materials. However, it is the appreciation of the flower itself that becomes the crucial element in conveying Sato-Pijanowski’s celebration of life.
Orchids are the largest known family of plants in the world and are found on all continents. Interestingly, the orchid has been cultivated for a variety of purposes: flower arrangements, corsages, medicine, aphrodisiacs, and even food. For centuries, this highly regarded flower has been associated with ornamentation and commendation.
Life II: Orchid Cattleya is based on one of the showiest of orchids, the original corsage flower. Like an actual corsage, Life II: Orchid Cattleya is intended to be worn to display its natural beauty and elegance. The petals and sepals are constructed of cast pink, green, and white 18k gold. The variety of gold colors accents several pave set diamonds, lavishly placed within the labellum. The flamboyant bloom can be separated from the 18k gold snake chain allowing it to be worn as a brooch or pendant. Like an orchid, Life II: Orchid Cattleya offers a unique, wearable piece for many occasions. The combination of high quality craftsmanship, precious materials, and the history and tradition of the orchid enhance the liveliness and beauty emulating from within the bloom.
In today’s high tech and high stress society we are too often caught up with daily activities and personal responsibilities. We have been conditioned by society to live in a fast paced world. It seems that we are all searching for the quickest means for a plausible end, and as a result, the preciousness of each and every day is lost. Hiroko Sato-Pijanowski’s Orchid series signifies a fresh outlook, a new beginning, and an opportunity to celebrate and appreciate all of life’s endeavors.
Nicole DesChamps is a metalsmith who currently resides in Ann Arbor, Michigan.