Gallery 21, an all-white exhibition space in Spanish Village, San Diego, California, became home to the enamel exhibition, RADIANCE from October 3-25,2009. This square room, with a bank of windows on one wall, was transformed by Studio 5’s in-house designer, carpenter, enamellist, and teacher, Steve Artz. The addition of huge panels of grey and black MDF board, acrylic and MDF formed structures housed the incredible enamel art of 45 people from throughout the United States.
The juror for RADIANCE, Linda Darty, had her work cut out for her as she studied the entries, over and over, to finally arrive at a cohesive and outstanding show that exemplifies the up-and-coming and the best of contemporary enameling entries for this show.
The exhibition amplified the diversity of the metal forms that can carry enameling and the myriad of methods that can be used to apply the glass to the metal. As people moved throughout the gallery they were gently invited to peruse small intimate objects of adornment that quietly reminded them that traditional techniques continue to be alive and beautiful, then, sometimes immediately, be confronted with a “jump-out-at-you” enameled piece that loudly and forcefully demanded their attention and pushed its way into the contemporary enamel world.
Among those attention-getting enamels was Cynthia Miller’s confident nine-panel “Gold and Jewels Rising from the Mist” which also captured the Enamellist Society Award. Hanging on a white manikin, by many frighteningly wispy “threads,” the heavy and ball-like formed copper hanging “Dendritis Chromium” by Damia Smith won the Thompson Enamel Certificate Award.
Best in Show went to Andrew Kuebeck for his beautifully executed, dark, and somewhat disturbing, “Lumber Jack Brooch.”
Nodding to the beauty of traditional cloisonné, lean Tudor’s 16 three inch copper circles held images of a trip to Switzerland. Each small disc captured the beauty and possibilities of this technique as it tells the story of one person’s remembrance, in enamel, of a particular time and place.
As in every show, there is always the, “How did she do that?” In this case the question was asked of Prudy Smith’s huge, heavy, forms, partially enameled and apparently alive. I’m sure that they came down off the wall when the lights were out and walked around the gallery floor on their “tentacles.” Somehow, they repositioned themselves each night so that they were in their allotted space on the wall by the time the gallery opened each day.
Looking back, it seems amazing that our small, 26-member, Studio 5 enamellist group, with dedication, hard work, and Steve Artz was able to achieve a month-long exhibition in San Diego’s Balboa Park. Would we do it again? Ask us in a year, after we catch our breath and find out that we really did survive.