Wearing the Universe on Your Wrist
Like the line, “The galaxy is on Orion’s Belt” from the movie Men in Black, it is, in fact, possible to wear the universe on your wrist. “Like wearing the universe on your wrist” is how Jane Milosch, founder and Director of the Provenance Research Initiative and juror for CraftForms 2019 described my Russian filigree cuff bracelet Storms of Juno. Hearing her say that to the whole audience at the juror and artists’ talk made the 6:00 AM airport run to Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport (aka the busiest airport on the planet), the two trains through Philadelphia, and dragging our bags uphill from the Wayne, PA train station to the hotel absolutely worth all the effort. In truth, it made my 30+ years as a visual artist worth all the ups and downs.
CraftForms is an annual, international exhibit that has a 25 year history of raising the bar in the world of fine craft. There are thousands of entries, but less than 90 are accepted. It’s been my privilege to have had my artwork in CraftForms three times, 2009, 2010, and this year. I first connected with Jane Milosch when she curated in 2010 and I was able to attend the opening then too. I learned a great deal about curation that year during the juror and artist talk, as she invited the artists to speak and then talked about what made her choose the pieces she had. This larger awareness had a great deal of impact on my own jurying and curatorial work such as when I chose the artists for the SNAG Links project. If all curators/jurors were even half as knowledgeable and dedicated as she is, the arts would be a much better place. In a world where most people only see a bunch of polka-dots, she connects the dots and forms a picture of concept, intent, technique, and craftspersonship across more mediums and with greater understanding than anyone else I’ve ever met. In referring to her early curatorial work, Jane used a phrase in her talk that I’d never heard and am stealing: “[we] didn’t segregate art,” meaning that art need not be divided into art and fine craft but can be curated thematically or by medium. What a way to heal that “art versus craft” divide.
When it came time for me to talk, standing there beside my work in the gallery of the Wayne Art Center…Well, really that’s not an accurate description…If you watch the video, you’ll see that, with or without tools in my hand, I talk with my entire body…Standing…Ha.
…While (borderline dancing) talking about my piece in the exhibit, I kept flashing back to how long it took to tension fit each one of those wires into the 14 gauge, platinum-enhanced frame that I had micro TIG welded into one structure. I kept going back and forth between two different wire sizes before I settled on one. I tried three strands of 24 gauge, twisted and milled wire then purposely popped them out and made a batch of 3-strand 26 gauge wire, then wasn’t satisfied with that either. Tried the 3-strand 24 gauge again, popped them out, and finally settled on the 3-strand 26 gauge. There was a moment in the talk (you can see it in the video) when I blanked on what I’d chosen and had to look to remember. Pieces like these take so long from concept to execution, photography, and finally exhibition that I have to look with magnification to remember their details.
What I do keenly remember, besides the tendonitis pain of individually sculpting all those tiny wires, was that I was happy to give NASA and Cassini credit for the cuff’s inspiration, but there was no way I was sharing the bill with the likes of Jupiter. As deities go, he’s a complete jerk. As I said in my talk, if his wife Juno had had access to YouTube, she’d have been watching all those “Is My Mate a Psychopath” videos.
Venus…the one and only planet named for a female deity. Actually, long before the Romans, the Babalonians associated the Evening Star with Ishtar, a female powerhouse if ever there was one. Juno on the other hand, she’s the name of an asteroid.
Several times Jane emphasized the importance of getting to hear the artists’ intents and processes in their own words and how rarely collectors are able to do so. There were about 12 exhibiting artists in the crowd at the weekend’s events. As we went around the gallery and each of us spoke, I was struck by how insightfully everyone spoke of their work.
The video (yes, of my short talk while not exactly standing still) best tells the feminine power aspect of Juno’s storms of tiny wires, how I created the bracelet, and Jane’s commentary on my work. Thanks to my husband Chris for filming!
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Thanks to all involved in CraftForms 2019 and congrats on the 25th anniversary of this amazing, international exhibit! The show runs through Feb 1, 2020 and is open to the public at Wayne Arts Center, just a short train ride from downtown Philadelphia, PA.