This article is a review on Recent Works of Natalie Paul, an exhibition held at the Venture Gallery, Lathrup Village, Michigan on May 12-June 6, 1984.
Probably the most vociferous argument in the crafts world in recent years has been the on-going debate concerning the validity of traditional craft work—ceramic, fiber, glass, metal, wood—in the art realm. Continually in question has been the discrepancy between a work of obvious functional use, traditional to crafts media, and the more esthetic or conceptual concerns of the fine arts of drawing, painting and sculpture. The past quarter century has seen a major expansion of endeavor in the crafts world to approach a resolution of the problem of combining functional objects with enhanced esthetic appeal. Natalie Paul’s recent exhibition at the Venture Gallery offered an exciting and successful solution to this dichotomy, with an integration of meticulously finished jewelry and finely detailed, framed wall pieces.
On a miniature scale, the wall pieces, all less than a square foot in dimension, were fanciful paintings in various combinations of paper, paint, wood and metal. Ranging from nearly deco patterns to fantasy worlds to personal projections, all were characterized by an attention to detail and a precision of execution. They were, of themselves, striking images; closer inspection further revealed a pleasurable combination. as each work was designed to display a carefully worked brooch, pin, earrings or other objects of adornment.
Paul’s concern for detail and finish, as evidenced in her painting, came across strongly in delicate fabrications of silver, sterling, enamels and stones. As fine jewelry, the works stood on their own merit, and when they were joined with the wall pieces both painting and metalwork were enhanced. A delightful indecision resulted—did the jewelry echo the painting, or did the painting play with the metal’s imagery?
Aside from the obvious artistic appeal of these works was the added benefit of an integral storage place for the jewelry. Beautiful objects of adornment frequently are relegated to closed boxes, containers or drawers, when not being worn, their visual merits often hidden from view. The fabrication of these wall pieces insures the perfect showcase for each piece.
Paul’s innovative approach provides a continual display for her metalwork, one that assures an on-going pleasure in the delicate and decorative work. Here, indeed, is an integration of functional and esthetic considerations, a fusion of the worlds of craft and art.