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Volume 32 No.1 2008


Ornament Magazine


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Cover Feature: Glenda Arentzen


Glenda Arentzen Abstract Expressionist. 2008 Philadelphia Museum of Art Craft Show. Writing with Thread Traditional Textiles of Southwest Chinese Minorities. Carla Reiter Fashioning a New Vocabulary. Risa Benson A Sensualist’s Delight. Ancient Jewelry Treasures from the Walters Art Museum. Mauritanian Conus Shell Disks A Comparison of Ancient and Ethnographic Ornaments. The Kimono Art of Itchiku Kubota Tradition and Innovation. Exhibition Silver Seduction. The Art of Mexican Modernist Antonio Pineda. Exhibition Superheroes. Fashion and Fantasy.

Glenda Arentzen
by Carl Little
Glenda Arenrzen, Abstract Expressionist Glenda Arenrzen, Abstract Expressionist

Abstract Expressionist
It is a Maine coast soaker. Driving over the bridge that connects the mainland to Deer Isle, the windshield wipers are going full tilt. The rain has not let up as the car climbs a twisting roadway off a back road in Stonington, through banks of foliage made extra verdant by a very wet month of July. After disembarking at a small grassy turnaround, the visitor walks the final hundred yards or so up and over a granite ledge once harvested by quarrymen. At last, the aerie that serves as a seasonal refuge for jeweler Glenda Arentzen and her life partner, glassblower Rick Harkness, comes into sight, perched on a hill top. Looking out the windows through the rain one can only imagine the islands of Penobscot Bay parading across the horizon beyond Stonington Harbor, one of the most painted views in the state. Photographs by Bob Barrett.


   2008 Philadelphia Museum of Art Craft Show
by Pat Worrell
Kathleen_Dustin Marianne Hunter

By the time the Philadelphia Museum of Art Craft Show opens in mid-November, a new President-elect will have been decided, signaling a time of change, of renewed optimism, new policies, and a new direction. Craft, too, is always in perpetual change. It mirrors our needs as a society and culture. It reflects our highest aspirations and our deepest conflicts. And one hundred ninety-five of the best in craft, selected from fourteen hundred applicants, will bring their newest, freshest works including glass, baskets, jewelry, wearable and decorative fiber, metal, paper, leather, furniture, clay, wood, and mixed media to the Philadelphia show. Change occurs on both sides, artists and audience. “From my perspective, craft work keeps getting better and better,” says juror William Hunter, a master woodturner. “The expansion of what is available through schools, better access to mentors and striving to get in the best shows have grown the work in all media.” Says juror Elizabeth Shypertt, owner of San Francisco’s Velvet da Vinci Gallery, “I looked for new directions. There has been really great work and good design out there for a long time. I feel that the acceptance and awareness is changing. There are more people realizing how good this work is.”


    Writing with Thread
by Kate A. Lingley
Writing with Thread Writing with Thread

Traditional Textiles of Southwest Chinese Minorities
The ethnic minority peoples of southwestern China are collectively renowned for their beautiful and technically sophisticated textile arts, their distinctive ethnic costumes and their elaborate silverwork. An important collection of southwestern textiles and related materials is on display at the University of Hawai’i Art Gallery from September 21 through November 30, 2008. Curated by textile scholar Angela Sheng of McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, the exhibition is titled Writing with Thread: Traditional Textiles of Southwest Chinese Minorities, and showcases the collection of Huang Ying Feng, architect and collector, whose collection is housed in the Evergrand Art Museum in Taoyuan, Taiwan. After it closes its run at the University of Hawai’i Art Gallery, the exhibition will travel to the Chazen Art Museum at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, January 31 through April 12, 2009, and the Museum of International Folk Art in Santa Fe, New Mexico, May 15 through August 16, 2009. The People’s Republic of China is home to fifty-six officially recognized ethnic groups, including the Han majority and fifty-five minority groups. A large number of these ethnic minority peoples are concentrated in the southwestern provinces of China, mainly in the provinces of Yunnan, Guizhou, Guangxi, and Guangdong, as well as parts of neighboring Hainan, Hunan and Sichuan. These include large and well-known groups such as the Miao and Yi, and smaller groups such as the Hani and Jingpo, all of whom are represented in the exhibition. Photographs by Wang Lin-Sheng. Courtesy of the Evergrand Museum, Taoyuan Taiwan.


  Carla Reiter
by Glen R. Brown
Carla Reiter, Fashioning a New Vocabulary Carla Reiter, Fashioning a New Vocabulary

Fashioning a New Vocabulary
Fashioned from darkened silver wire, the gauzy pods, cornets, tendrils, and collapsed tubes of Illinois metalsmith Carla Reiter’s distinctive knitted jewelry defy expectations about every inherent property of metals save ductility. The lightness of their construction and the surprising softness verging on sensuality of the forms is a direct consequence of their geniality toward the body, the adornment of which is Reiter’s primary motivation as a maker. Her works are wonderfully sculptural though never at the expense of their function as ornament; they are not, in other words, conceived as autonomous forms that must only grudgingly make concessions to the body during use. Even in the planning stage, Reiter’s jewelry is contingent upon the body rather than on preliminary sketches. As each piece evolves she repeatedly tries it on before attempting any additions or modifications in order to assess “how things are going to fall, where they’re going to lie, how they’re going to move, what will frame them, and what part of the body they will accentuate.” The result is a series of materially significant work that nevertheless relies fundamentally upon the body for fulfillment as form and that cannot be properly appreciated aesthetically outside the context of use. Photographs by Robert Diamante.


Risa Benson
by Robin Updike
  Risa Benson, A Sensualist's DelightRisa Benson, A Sensualist's Delight

A Sensualist's Delight
A couple of years ago Risa Benson attended a workshop in making pojagi, the decorative cloths that Koreans use for wrapping gifts, food and nearly anything that can be wrapped. In traditional Korean society, thrifty women turned textile scraps into something useful, perhaps even beautiful, and the making of pojagi became women’s work. But one thing that distinguishes pojagi from other forms of quilting—and part of what intrigued Benson—is the careful attention to seams by the pojagi makers. The seams are essentially flat, meaning that pojagi are reversible and because of the painstaking seaming techniques, they have the same finished look on both sides.“Instead of a nasty back to your quilted piece you have flat seams that are encased on the inside,” says Benson. “It’s quite beautiful.” Benson was also interested in the pojagi process of using small patches to organically build a larger textile in a way that is generally less planned and plotted than in traditional American quilting, for instance. Benson was captivated by the pojagi workshop and when she got home she immediately set to work adapting what she had learned to the creation of her own art-to-wear. Never mind that she is a knitter known for her extraordinarily complex and beautiful knitted coats, jackets, tunics, and vests and that she rarely works with woven textiles. “When I came back from the class I thought, there must be a way to use this in knitting,” says Benson. “So I made my own patches. I got the yarn on the knitting machine and started knitting. And by making patches—casting on and casting off—you get an edge that you can use to start another one. So you do it again. By doing that, you don’t really feel that you have control over how it will come out, and that’s what’s interesting to me.” Photographs by Jack Ramsdale.


  Ancient Jewelry Treasures from the Walters Art Museum
by Sabine Albersmeier
  Ancient Jewelry Treasures from the Walters Art Museum

Ancient Jewelry Treasures from the Walters Art MuseumThe impressive jewelry collection of the Walters Art Museum was created largely by Henry Walters (1848–1931), who continued and widely expanded the collection efforts of his father William T. Walters (1819–1894), a Baltimore railroad magnate. The depth and magnitude of the Museum’s holdings reflect Henry Walters’s appreciation for jewelry from a large diversity of cultures, time periods and geographical areas. He collaborated with well-known dealers of his time, but Henry also traveled to Europe himself in search of new objects and commissioned pieces from some of the most important jewelrymakers and workshops of his time, including Peter Carl Fabergé in St. Petersburg and Giacinto Melillo in Naples. The special exhibition Bedazzled—5,000 Years of Jewelry, on view October 19, 2008 through January 4, 2009, at the Walters Art Museum in Baltimore, Maryland, will give visitors a unique glance into highlights from the collection, which will be presented along with objects from the vaults that have never been shown. Among the masterpieces in the collection are breathtaking objects from renowned jewelrymakers such as René Lalique (1860–1945), and Tiffany & Co., responsible for a stunning iris corsage brooch, which won a gold medal for its designer, George Paulding Farnham (1859–1927), and the jury’s grand prize for Tiffany & Co. at the 1900 Exposition Universelle in Paris. Henry Walters did not, however, concentrate his collecting efforts solely on contemporary jewelry. He also assembled one of the most significant collections of ancient jewelry in the United States. It includes objects from the ancient Near East, Egypt, Greece, Etruria, and Rome, ranging from Mesopotamian stone animal pendants from around 3,000 B.C. to late antique and Byzantine imperial jewelry of the fourth and fifth centuries A.D. Photographs by Susan Tobin.


  Mauritanian Conus Shell Disks
by Robert K. Liu
Mauritanian Conus Shell Disks Mauritanian Conus Shell Disks

A Comparison of Ancient and Ethnographic Ornaments
Specific genera of marine shells have been used by humans for ornaments since at least the Upper Paleolithic and some of these continue to be worn. Spondylus and Glycymeris are among the marine bivalves with the most well-known uses for jewelry in the Old and New Worlds (Liu 2006), but the marine gastropod Conus, has been among the preferred shells for ornaments in prehistory since about 20,000 B.C. (in the Levant; Goring-Morris 1989), and as early trade objects from the Indo-Pacific to the Mediterranean basin (Reese 1991). Interestingly, by the end of the ninth century B.C., decorated conus whorls (with drilled dots or ring and dot designs) were being used, found at Hasanlu IV, a burnt Iranian citadel (Reese 1989). In the Near or Middle East, conus shell whorls, rings and other perforated fragments were well-recognized ornaments from about 4,000-3,000 B.C. on (Lankton et al., 2003: 30) and probably persisted since then. A specimen shown in this article, the shell ring from a third millennium Syrian site, with the discolored green spot (from contact with copper or bronze during burial) and very similar rings strung with beads of other shell, stone, faience, Egyptian Blue and glass that were found at Nuzi, Iraq, dating from the fourteenth century B.C. (9/06/2007 pers. observation, Semitic Museum, Harvard University), are all examples of ancient conus ornaments.
Photographs by Robert K. Liu/Ornament.


  The Kimono Art of Itchiku Kubota
by Dale Carolyn Gluckman
The Kimono Art of Itchiku Kubota

Tradition and Innovation
Itchiku Kubota (1917-2003) brought to his work an emotional response to nature that was both deeply personal and uniquely Japanese. A life-long resident of Tokyo, he was well versed in the arts of his native country, fascinated by other cultures and familiar with Western art. The work of the nineteenth-century French Impressionists, particularly Claude Monet (1840-1926), resonated with Kubota’s own artistic concerns. Both artists had a fascination with the effects of light on color. Throughout his career Kubota explored new directions in presentation, format, materials, and techniques—he was unafraid to experiment or question established ways of doing things and his work is characterized by a unique blending of tradition and innovation. Kubota was not born into a kimono-producing family; his father was a curio dealer. In 1931, at the age of fourteen he apprenticed himself to a yuzen dyer, entering Japan’s long tradition of transmitting craft instruction from master to novice. The yuzen technique of dyeing involves outlining designs directly on the fabric using a special rice paste (a resist). In the style Kubota learned, dye is painted into the areas defined by the rice paste; those areas are then covered entirely by the resist and the background dyed with a wide brush. The technique is akin to painting and allows for the creation of detailed pictorial imagery on cloth. On his own he studied other types of kimono decoration and traditional Japanese ink painting. An encounter with a sixteenth-century textile fragment, popularly called tsujigahana, at the age of twenty set the course of Kubota’s artistic life. Of the experience he said, “I came across an old strip of tsujigahana in a museum and was mesmerized by its complexity and mysterious beauty...I was struck by the delicate tie dyeing (shibori) on the gauze-like material...This find seemed like a revelation from God and I vowed then to devote the rest of my life to bringing its beauty alive again.” And so he did. In his spare time Kubota began trying to recreate tsujigahana.
Photographs courtesy of the Itchiku Kubota Art Museum, Lake Kawaguchi, Yamanashi Prefecture, Japan.


Our upcoming issue 37.4 contains


Nubian Jewelry

Kate Mensah

Philadelphia Craft Show


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