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

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