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Wearable, Beautiful Vehicles for Communication at the Baltimore Jewelry Center

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BmoreArt’s Picks: December 13-19

One of the few contemporary art jewelry galleries in the region, the Baltimore Jewelry Center (BJC) has positioned Baltimore at the forefront of the contemporary art jewelry movement. Offering a wealth of diverse programming—from artist residencies, classes and workshops to exhibitions and symposia—the BJC plays an important role in the professional development of contemporary jewelry artists on an international scale. Artists from across the globe come to the BJC to learn, teach, and exhibit their art jewelry. The BJC also supports jewelry artists by selling their work in their Metal Shop and through several juried sales throughout the year.

This winter, the BJC presents Signs, Signals + Symbols, an international exhibition that explores jewelry as a symbol of identity and vehicle for communication, alongside their annual Holiday Sale, featuring work by new, emerging, and established artists.

 

London-based Chinese artist Xinyi Chen's two works: OOTD Leaping, 2022, and Maze Intelligence, 2022.
Signs, Signals, & Symbols at the Baltimore Jewelry Center

Signs, Signals + Symbols

Signs, Signals + Symbols is a conceptually driven community-challenge exhibition inspired by the BJC’s fall symposium and workshop series of the same name. The challenge: to create jewelry and wearable art that acts as a signifier of status, attitudes, or beliefs.

Demonstrating the BJC’s broad reach, artists from around the world met the challenge with new work that is both personal and political—some evoking dissent, others probing intimate experiences or reinterpreting time-honored jewelry forms, and all employing unconventional materials to push the boundaries of adornment.

Zhipeng Wang answered the call to create with three related pieces titled Identity Ring (1), (2), and (3) that reflect his experience as a Chinese artist living and working in Germany. Created with densely packed German coffee and Chinese tea—and smelling strongly of both—the pieces take the form of traditional signet rings. A fundamental expression of identity dating back to ancient Egypt, signet rings historically acted as the wearer’s signature and were often engraved with a family crest and used as a stamp to sign official documents. In departure from this tradition, Wang has left the center of his signet rings blank. In lieu of an engraved identity marker, he instead allows the aroma of Eastern and Western daily beverage choices to coexist, much like the two cultures do in his daily life living abroad.

 

Signs, Signals + Symbols at the BJC
Hong Kong-born artist Ho Oi Ying Valerie's I am Your Only One, 2022
Hong Kong-born artist Ho Oi Ying Valerie's I am Your Only One, 2022

Across the gallery, a bright red toy dispenser emblazoned with a cheerful Pikachu and the text “Be Part of No Choice” sits in the corner and sells identical “suffrage badges” delivered in red and white plastic Pokémon balls. The badges feature Pokémon character Pikabat surrounded by text stating, “I am your only one.” Part satire, part protest, I am Your Only One by Hong Kong-born artist Ho Oi Ying Valerie responds to Hong Kong’s recent single-candidate election that brought pro-Beijing leader John Lee Ka-chiu to power. Parodying the coincidental rhyming of Lee Ka-chiu and Pikachu, as well as Pokémon’s imperative to “catch ‘em all,” I am Your Only One confronts Hong Kong’s dire political situation in which citizens, like the wearers of the “suffrage badges,” are deprived of the right to choose.

Strikingly colorful necklaces by London-based Chinese artist Xinyi Chen lay across a pedestal in the center of the gallery. In two works titled OOTD Leaping and Maze Intelligence, discarded electronic components—known as E-waste—become what the artist calls “artificial intelligems,” set into the necklaces’ reclaimed silver prong mountings in the manner of traditional gemstones. Because the digital world is generally thought to be more sustainable—trees are spared!—it’s easy to overlook the E-waste’s environmental toll. With a focus on sustainability, Chen sourced her “artificial intelligems” from China’s WEEE (Waste from Electronical and Electronic Equipment) Recycling Center. The artist presents E-waste not only as an object of beauty, but also as a symbol of identity—a vehicle for our personalities’ digital footprints on social media, dating apps… and just about everywhere else on the internet.

Additional exhibiting artists include April Wood, Aurea Sellmeyer, Beichen Guan, Cécile Maes, Chu Winnie Cheung, Daphne Ling, Eugene Ruhl, Eva Fernandez, Ildikó Dánfalvi, J Diamond, Korey E. Burns, Laila Marie Costa, Maria Konschake, Mercede Sheybani, Mercury Swift, Nadia Hewchuck, Navah Langmeyer, and Shannon Kurzyniec.

Loudly or quietly, every sartorial choice reveals something about the wearer’s identity and preferences. Whether signifying marital status, political affiliation, or gender identity, jewelry has the power to communicate any number of simple or complex ideas. Artists in Signs, Signals + Symbols have astutely harnessed that power to demonstrate jewelry’s limitless range of possible messages and meanings, and the care taken in both craft and concept underscores jewelry’s significance as a wearable art form. The exhibition will be on view through February 10, 2023.

 

Eva Fernandez, Marge's Pearls, 2022 and Playful Pearl Necklace, 2022; J Diamond, Is He, You Know? 2022; April Wood, Juicy Fruit - Avocado, 2022, and Juicy Fruit - Banana, 2022
April Wood, Juicy Fruit - Avocado, 2022, and Juicy Fruit - Banana, 2022
April Wood, Juicy Fruit - Avocado, 2022
Cécile Maes, The Big Red Dot, 2020, Porcelain, enamel, rubber, silver, nylon ribbon
Cécile Maes, Precious Packs, 2021, silver
Zhipeng Wang, Identity Ring 1, 2, and 3
Cécile Maes, Precious Packs, 2021

The BJC Holiday Sale

The BJC’s 2022 holiday sale presents new, jury-selected lines of production work from local makers who share a connection to the BJC either as instructors, students, or studio regulars. “What we love about our annual holiday sale is the opportunity to see multiple people’s work together in one place,” says Program and Administrative Coordinator Allison Gulick. “The sale is a chance to see the personality of each of the makers, which is reflected in their work as well as their displays. The BJC holiday sale is also a fun way to support local makers while also sharing the work of the BJC with the broader Baltimore community.”

This year, Baltimore photographer Vivian Doering selected work from the sale to use in new photographic compositions. The resulting images reconsider jewelry as a design element in a larger graphic context while still highlighting the works for sale as desirable objects of adornment. By showcasing the jewelry’s formal qualities—bold shapes, vibrant colors, or fine details—Doering pays tribute to the participating artists’ unique designs.

Doering’s images feature work by Andy Lowrie, April Wood, Beth Payne, Caitlin Duckwall, Elliot Keeley, Jen Moore, Jen Pape, Kimber Harris-Wiegand, Magdalena Csipo, Marian Breitenbach, Margo Csipo, Mercury Swift, and Molly Shulman.

You can view and purchase jewelry from the holiday sale on the BJC’s website through December 19.

 

Jen Moore
Marian Breitenbach, Molly Shulman, and Jen Pape
Beth Payne
Margo Csipo
Kimber Harris (pink geometric earrings), Magdalena Csipo (heart & star), Elliot Keeley (lightning bolt keychain)
Caitlin Duckwall
Mercury Swift (glass chain necklace), April Wood (earrings), and Andy Lowrie (chain necklace)

Artist Bios with Link to BJC Holiday Shop

Andy Lowrie is a jewelry artist who makes sculptural and wearable objects, works on paper and paint-based installations. He is an Australian maker, living and working in Baltimore. Through his craft he pursues contemporary expressions of jewelry making that interrogate and reflect his life and experiences. The potential of process and material as metaphor is a touchstone of his practice. Recently, this has incorporated both the sonic and repetitive experiences of labor. Andy Lowrie Jewelry is his eponymous line of handmade, sterling silver jewelry. His work has been exhibited in Australia, China, Europe and North America, and has been professionally recognized with awards from Brooklyn Metal Works in New York and My-Day By-Day Gallery in Rome. He is currently a Teaching Fellow at the Baltimore Jewelry Center in Maryland.

April Wood is a metalsmith and jeweler living and working in Baltimore, MD. She is a co-founder of the Baltimore Jewelry Center, a metals + jewelry community education space in Baltimore city, where she worked as Studio and Program Manager, Exhibitions Director, and an Instructor. She received her BFA in Studio Art, concentrating in Metals/Jewelry, from Texas State University – San Marcos and her MFA from Towson University. She has taught at the Maryland Institute College of Art, the Corcoran College of Art and Design, Penland School of Crafts, Idyllwild Arts Academy, and Towson University. Her work has been featured in Metalsmith, Surface Design Journal, and Sculpture. She exhibits her work nationally and internationally, including a solo exhibition at the Austin Museum of Art and SIERAAD International Art Jewelry Fair in Amsterdam.

Beth Payne teaches art in Baltimore County public schools and has been creating jewelry as a creative outlet for many years. She recently participated in the BJC’s jewelry production class where she focused on renewable and sustainable materials to develop this limited production line. Payne designed these pieces with an emphasis on movement and tactility that the wearer can play with if anxious or stressed. 

Caitlin Duckwall lives in Baltimore where she was trained as a Medical Illustrator at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, graduating from the Art as Applied to Medicine program in 1993. After spending 20 years working on artwork for anatomical atlases, medical journals, textbooks, lectures and websites, she found herself longing for something more tactile and dimensional. The pandemic served as an opportunity to consider this creative path and she began taking classes in metalsmithing at the Baltimore jewelry Center. As a student of Medicine and Biology, themes of nature and science always resonate with and make their way into her work. Recently, Duckwall has returned to computer-generated design, where she has been able to model intricate sculptures in Rhino and Z-Brush which can be 3D printed in wax resin and then cast in metal. The medusa collection 3D skull pendants are all examples of this technique.

Elliot Keeley is an artist and metalsmith from Raleigh, North Carolina. He completed his BFA with a concentration in metalsmithing and jewelry design from Appalachian State University. From 2017-2019, Elliot participated in the two-year Core Fellowship at Penland School of Craft.  His work explores different processes, often incorporating ceramics, drawing, painting, and collage, while maintaining and specializing a practice in metal. He is currently based in Baltimore, Maryland. where he works to manage the Baltimore Jewelry Center.

Jen Moore is a metalsmith and educator. She is currently an Exhibition Director, Studio and Program Manager at the Baltimore Jewelry Center. She received her MFA in Jewelry and Metals from San Diego State University and a BA in Art History from UC Berkeley. She has exhibited both nationally and internationally and has been published in Metalsmith Magazine. Of this line of production work, Moor says, “I wanted to explore jewelry that spoke to the wearer about the nostalgia of county fairs and school party decorations. I wanted earrings that capture the delight of bright metallic paper cutouts of youth, and brooches that remind the wearer of hot summer nights out late watching rock concerts.”

Jen Pape is a Washington, DC area-based artist and entrepreneur with a BA in Psychology from the University of Wisconsin-Madison; certifications in Auricular Energetics, Yoga Teaching, and iRest Yoga Nidra; metalsmithing education from Baltimore Jewelry Center, Montgomery College, Glen Echo Arts, and UW-Madison; and a deeply embedded meditation practice based in Wisdom Teachings and esoteric studies. Their work has been featured at the Baltimore Jewelry Center, Femme Fatale, Shop Made in DC, Circle Yoga, BunBun’s Closet, The Stew, Stroll Magazine, and several local art markets. Utilizing jewelry as one way we creatively engage the physical world around us, they ask, “where does our identity lie and how are we able to express our unique keynotes? A perpetual process of exploring how expansive concepts may be simplified, destroyed, rebuilt, expanded upon, whilst shining light on their purest essence.”

Kimber Harris-Wiegand has been fascinated by maps her whole life. She finds observing a network of roads to be particularly satisfying not only from a navigational standpoint, but because it provides a tangible sense of connectivity to the world. In her work, she isolates small portions of maps, rotates and overlaps them, and adds color to further highlight their unique geometry. While she acknowledges that these pieces may not be immediately recognizable as maps, she hopes that they will embody a sense of familiarity and comfort.

Magdalena Csipo bought two pints of sequins at age 13 and made earrings for anyone who paid attention to them, eventually forgetting it all for a degree in electrical engineering. They didn’t touch jewelry again until 2018, when their sister suggested taking a class at the Baltimore Jewelry Center might make them less miserable. Their work explores impractical takes on utilitarian imagery. Inspired by industrial machinery, beautiful garbage, and the built environment–Magdalena celebrates things we overlook in the material world. They use enamel, anodizing, and thoughtful fabrication to make simple pieces with subtle complexity. A surreal sense of humor and a certain tenderness is apparent in the things they create. Their jewelry appeals to anyone who knows the small joy of holding a matchbox car. Magdalena continues to create at the Baltimore Jewelry center. Sometimes they can be found on a walk, taking a picture of a lost shoe in the perfect lighting.

Margo Csipo is an emerging artist, former 1 month resident, and community member of the Baltimore Jewelry Center. Csipo has a BFA in Industrial Design from the Massachusetts College of Art and is heavily influenced by narrative-based art forms like film, animation, and illustration. Tapping into her lived experience as a Queer artist and first-generation Hungarian immigrant Csipo creates layered compositions with discerning material combinations.

Marian Breitenbach is a jewelry artist influenced by the biologies of the natural world as well as the unreal realms of the imagination. Her pieces strive to be elegantly odd and wearably weird—a validation of those who feel unexpressed in their oddness. The artist’s Aril series, presented in the BJC Holiday Sale, is visually inspired by shell, pod, insect wing, and ribcage forms that are at once both closed and open, sometimes containing an object, sometimes filled with an eerie glow, and sometimes containing only air. Breitenbach aims for these works to convey a sense of both freedom and entrapment—a feeling of comfort in safety at odds with the yearning for escape. The pieces are formed from hand-finished laser-cut acrylic and photoluminescent epoxy resin utilizing both flat elements and thermoformed volumetric designs.

Mercury Swift is a non-binary artist and jeweler living in Baltimore, Maryland. They use traditional and contemporary glass flameworking and metal fabrication techniques to create otherworldly jewels. Swift capitalizes on contrast between the translucent brightness of glass and the cold hardness of silver to create eye-catching wearables that come to life on the body. Their works capture intimate sensations like floating, melting and dissolving. Swift aims to expand definitions of beauty; their wearables transcend gender and can be worn by any type of person. Their inspiration comes from finding universal patterns in the natural world and outer space: plant life, insects, astral bodies, markers of water and wind; as well as scientific drawings of the micro and macro. Swift aims to expand definitions of beauty; their wearables transcend gender and can be worn by anyone.

Molly ShulmanOriginally from Frederick, MD, Molly was drawn to jewelry as a kid because she thought it was fun. That very simple introduction led to her wanting to make pieces that let adults remember what made them love jewelry in the first place. Molly began working at the Baltimore Jewelry Center as a Youth Instructor for the After School Program in 2017. She now supervises multiple youth programs, teaches classes, and responds to calls for custom and commissioned pieces of jewelry. Working closely with kids and teens helps to remind her of why she wanted to be in this field – the simple thought that jewelry is fun (fun to design, fun to make, and fun to wear). In her production work she relies heavily on shape and color. The bulk of her work makes use of base metals, such as copper or brass, and powder coating in order to keep things affordable. However, you will find flashes of yellow gold or the sparkle of gemstones in her higher end pieces. The goal remains the same whether the jewelry is gold or copper – make something that you enjoy, and others will enjoy it with you.

 

Header Image: Jen Moore

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