Tuesday, February 21, 2012

The Art of Transformation

By Lucy Peterson, SCC Intern

On Friday, February 3rd, the 8th installment of SCC’s Elizabeth R. Raphael Founder’s Prize Exhibition, Transformation 8: Contemporary Works in Small Metals, was unveiled to the public! Raphael Prize-winner Meghan Patrice Riley traveled to Pittsburgh from her New York City studio to attend the opening reception and accept the award, comprising a $5,000 cash prize and the purchase of her winning piece, Interstitial, for SCC’s permanent collection.

Part of the Transformation 8 Exhibition

During the reception, Riley delivered an excellent talk about her work and artistic process. In case you missed it, you can check out a video recording of her remarks on SCC’s You Tube page.

Riley draws inspiration from her background in mathematics and geometry and it definitely shows in each of her pieces. Born in Anaheim, CA, she studied economics and fine art in Toulouse, France before completing her B.A. in economics from the University of California, Berkeley in 2002. To create her independent line, she joined a collective art studio in San Francisco’s emerging Mission District, where she held open studios and art shows, before relocating to her present space in New York.

Mobius-Strip and Bottle-Cap Earrings, 2011

About her winning piece, Interstitial, Riley says, I want to show the starts and stops by creating a circular neckpiece reflecting a cycle. Counterclockwise the bottom right starts with an arrow leading the viewer to the top where there is a tipping point, and then coming around to the bottom a crescendo of interconnected, volumetric Möbius strips that cycle back to the origin. The Möbius strips are non-orientable and therefore have one side, illustrating an additional layer to the cyclical aspect of the piece.”

Meghan Patrice Riley, Interstitial, 2011
Raphael Founder's Prize Winning Piece

I was lucky enough to sit in on the final stage of jurying for Transformation 8 and got to handle Riley’s winning piece myself. I have to admit, I was wary of handling the necklace because it looked so fragile and delicate. Once I picked it up, though, I was pleasantly surprised! Not only light and wearable, it felt almost electric from the moment I picked it up; the gold beads jumped along the wires as I interacted with it. All of the jurors seemed to feel the same way about the piece, commenting about its transformative nature as you look at it, handle it and wear it. Juror Bruce Pepich might have put it best when he described Riley’s work as “a three dimensional drawing” reminiscent of “a jazz riff.” Other words I heard repeated about Riley’s piece were “refreshing”, “whimsical” and “transformative”. It was really fascinating listening to the comments of each juror as they approached their final decision and even more interesting to watch each of them respond so similarly to Riley’s piece after having a chance to handle it!

One Triangle, 2011
Part of the Transformation 8 Exhibition

The 33 outstanding finalists for the Raphael Prize submitted works that somehow address the theme of transformation and Riley’s winning necklace certainly accomplishes this in the way it continuously transforms on the wearer’s body. Because of its flexible nature, it looked slightly different, but equally stunning, on each juror that tried it on and I think that’s part of the real beauty of this piece. Transformation 8 features seven pieces of Riley’s jewelry, most of which can be purchased and taken home after the exhibition closes on June 30, 2012. In each work she mixes fine and industrial metals to fashion both a delicate and durable end product.

Bow-tie Necklace from the Axis Mundi line

Curious about her other bodies of work? Stop by SCC’s Store to see some colorful wire pieces from her 2011 Axis Mundi line that you wouldn’t have to wait to take home!

Descend Earrings from the Axis Mundi line

Monday, February 13, 2012

Bio-Organically Inspired Jewelry

The work of Jillian Moore is bright and colorful, shiny and bold. It can also be slightly disturbing in that it-looks-like-something-that-is-supposed-to-gross-me-out-but-I-don't-want-to-look-away kind of ways. Moore creates wearable pieces that abstractly reference biology. Working from micro to macro, her objects mimic that which is too small to be seen, such as viruses and bacterias, and that which is contained within our bodies. The glossy finishes accentuate the organic forms of organs and microorganisms, giving them the slimy and slick appearance one might expect of such unfamiliar anatomies.

Having earned her MFA in Jewelry and Metal Arts from the University of Iowa on the coat tails of having completed a BFA in Metalsmithing and Jewelry from Western Illinois University one might expect to recognize more metal  in her pieces. The truth is, it is often difficult to parse out exactly what materials are used in making these extraordinary objects. I admit, I found the lack of material definition immediately provocative. As a jack-of-all-trades maker, I often examine closely the type of materials artists use, the technique and appropriateness for both, but Moore's work is not willing to be so easily read. Pieces that appear to made from great gobs of glass and to have great weight prove themselves to be nearly weightless and far less fragile than expected. Free-standing objects have such movement that they appear to be boyant, yet they are heavy with the copper form that lies deep under many layers of paint.

In her artist statement, Jillian addresses her choice of materials and techniques, "I choose materials and techniques that are transformative, resulting in objects that do not readily reveal the processes of their making. Copper may be hidden under layers of paint, the only exposed metal oxidized. The electro-forming process allows for wax forms to be coated in copper leaving a hollow shell with textural encrustations--evidence of the accretive nature of the process of building copper on a molecular level. The resin pieces are light in weight, built on a core of carved foam that is strengthened by successive layers of an opaque, water-based composite resin. The clear epoxy resin is then layered with paint to create a depth of surface typically expected of glass work."

Jillian Moore is currently a participating artist in the Elizabeth R Raphael Founder's Prize Exhibition, on view in SCC's Main Gallery. She is also being featured in our Store. All of the works pictured in this blog are available for sale. Please call 412-261-7003 x 16, or email theStore@contemporarycraft.org to inquire about purchasing.