Betty Cooke: The Circle and the Line
Ongoing through January 2
@ The Walters Art Museum
Betty Cooke: The Circle and the Line is the first major museum retrospective of the Baltimore artist’s work. It explores the themes, and expressions in Cooke’s jewelry practice, and spans the period from her earliest designs in the 1940s and ’50s to the present.
Cooke grew up in Baltimore, attending the Maryland Institute College of Art, where she also taught for 22 years. Her first working location was a studio, showroom, and residence on Tyson Street, a few blocks from the Walters, which she had visited from childhood; the medieval armor collection was a particular favorite.
In 1965, Cooke, with her husband and business partner, William O. Steinmetz (d. 2016), moved from Tyson Street to the Village of Cross Keys in Baltimore’s northern suburbs, where they opened The Store Ltd. Over the years her jewelry has been featured in Vogue and received two Diamonds Today awards from DeBeers. In 1996 she was made a Fellow of the American Craft Council.
Below the surface of Cooke’s work are deeply personal, witty, and emotional meanings. She is inspired by the natural world, especially animals and birds, as well as kinetic forms, and uses materials as varied as metal tubing, enamel, wood, and gemstones. Cooke’s strong sense of composition underlies all of her work and is based in her conviction that with “a circle and a line, you can make anything.”
Betty Cooke: The Circle and the Line comprises approximately 160 objects drawn from public and private lenders and Cooke’s own collection. It approaches Cooke’s jewelry as individual works of art and in relation to the body as sculpture in motion. In addition to her jewelry, the exhibition will include photography, drawings, and design sketches.