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Volume 33 No.4 2010


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Cover Feature: Helen Shirk Illuminating the Possible

A Way of Life Recycling Antiquities and Artifacts. Uncommon Threads Wabanaki Textiles, Clothing and Costume. Penland School of Crafts An Appalachian Crown Jewel. Lisa Gralnick The Gold Standard. Koos Van Den Akker Sewing Up a Storm. Ascher Scarves Fine Art Meets Fashion. International Folk Art Market Santa Fe 2010. Jewelry Arts Candice Wakumoto. Ethnographic Arts The Bishop Museum’s Hawai’ian Hall. Marketplace Rings & Things. Design Study Glass Bead Pendant Hangers.

Helen Shirk
by Jill A. DeDominicis  

Illuminating the Possible
At San Diego State University’s opening reception for Points of Departure: Helen Shirk and Alumni of SDSU, Shirk’s students from as far back as thirty years ago came to celebrate her career and contributions as Professor and Head of the Jewelry and Metalwork department. Some arrived wearing pieces they created in Shirk’s classes, others shared memories of working under her demanding but ever-encouraging tutelage. A spiral-bound copy of the show catalog rested on a podium in front of the doors to the Everett Gee Jackson Gallery, reading like a sort of yearbook for Shirk, with students from recent and past years signing their notes of gratitude and appreciation on its pages. Later that evening, Shirk and colleagues Sondra Sherman and Ingrid Psuty shared some words about the show, and suddenly those surrounding Shirk reached up to unclasp the neckwires they wore, a handmade pendant dangling from each one. Students, colleagues, peers, those touched by Shirk’s thirty-five years as a professor proceeded in a line toward her, each one resting their tokens of appreciation on a metal rack placed on the wall for the purpose of displaying them.

“It felt like I was in some ancient ceremony,” Shirk says, clearly touched by the gesture. It is a tradition usually reserved for graduate students who have completed their coursework, and came as a total surprise to Shirk. Now a few days after the reception, Shirk wears a trio of these tokens around her neck, including one from a current student having her advancement that day. “I wore it for her for good luck,” Shirk explains. The pendant neckpieces, the catalog and the show itself are a testament to the breadth of Shirk’s influence in her years as a professor and celebrated metalsmith. Photographs by Helen Shirk and Carl Chase.


  A Way of Life
by Joseph Gatto

Recycling Antiquities and Artifacts
For many years I collected art and antiquities as an expression of my love for aesthetic objects made by hand. For an equal number of years, I worked with both non-plastic and increased plasticity materials—metals, stone, bone, hardwoods, plastic, leather, clay, oil paint, watercolor, photography, experimental film, video, text and poetry.

I have also been making jewelry off and on for many years and recently decided to explore it full time. At first it was difficult to admit that I had nothing to say as a painter, and with the development of digital versus film cameras, photography became less interesting as an expressive artform. I needed the control and challenge of designing jewelry as a more intellectual idiom of expression.
Photographs by Joseph Gatto.


    Uncommon Threads
by Carl Little

Wabanaki Textiles, Clothing and Costume
At once historical, cultural, anthropological, and ethnographic, the exhibition Uncommon Threads: Wabanaki Textiles, Clothing and Costume and its accompanying book set out to prove a thesis. By examining Wabanaki costume, including specific styles and decorative ornament, one can, in the words of curators Bruce Bourque and Laureen LaBar, “find information that illuminates their history, their means of communication, and the ways they coped with their rapidly changing world.”

The interpretation of Wabanaki textiles is an ongoing and expanding field of study—and relatively young compared to the research devoted to the material culture of, say, the Navajo, Pueblo or Pacific Northwest peoples. This exhibition at the Maine State Museum in Augusta offers the most comprehensive consideration of the subject to date, covering a little-known and generally overlooked body of materials that offers insight into a remarkable culture. Photograph by Ernest Amoroso.


Lisa Gralnick
by Robin Updike

The Gold Standard
What is the value of a rare eighteenth-century violin? What is the value of a brand name diamond engagement ring or the cosmetic surgery required to turn a blob of a nose into a profile worthy of a movie star? It is easy to discover the cost of these goods and services. Pick up the phone, make a call, get out your credit card and you can buy any of them. But the question of their worth is an entirely different and more complex discussion involving societal values, personal choice, cultural history, and real world economics.

Those are some of the questions that metalsmith Lisa Gralnick explores in a highly original exhibition now on view through August 15, 2010, at the Bellevue Arts Museum in Bellevue, Washington. In the show, called The Gold Standard, Gralnick uses gold and goldsmithing techniques as the basis for an ambitious body of work that marries masterful craftsmanship with thought-provoking conceptual art. The three discreet parts of the exhibition—which is really a retrospective of the last eight years of Gralnick’s career—challenge viewers to consider the dollars and cents value of objects versus their cultural and personal value. Gralnick also asks us to consider how objects made of luxury materials, such as gold, are burnished to an even more glittering and emotionally seductive patina when they come wrapped in a compelling history. Finally, the exhibition is a meditation on the nature of gold itself, a material prized by virtually every culture in the history of humankind. Unlike other metals, or people for that matter, gold does not tarnish, does not disintegrate and remains beautiful and alluring forever. Is its eternal and unspoilable beauty the reason we revere it so? Photographs by Jim Escalante, courtesy of the Bellevue Arts Museum.


  Koos Van Den Akker
by Nancy Ukai Russell

Sewing Up a Storm
Koos Van Den Akker is a textile collage artist whose canvas is a garment. From the time he was a child growing up in Holland, he took whatever was around him—crepe paper, unstrung fake pearls, bed sheets—and created something dreamlike and beautiful. He continues to look intently and touch and gather material instinctively, whether he is walking in New York’s Garment District, traveling abroad or at a street fair. The fabric may be five dollars or seventy-five dollars a yard. “It makes no difference to me,” he says pointing to a pile of burlap wheat sacks in his Manhattan workroom. “I can make something out of nothing.”

Van Den Akker’s father was a coal hauler in The Hague, self-employed with a horse and a wagon, and his mother was a homemaker. Art and fashion were not a part of his upbringing. His family were “good church-going people. Decent people. You didn’t spend money on a fridge if you didn’t have the money. You had the money first and then you bought it. Then you got a record player. But it was boring as hell.” Photographs by Richard Koek.


  Ascher Scarves
by Anne Straub

Fine Art Meets Fashion
Wearable art has long had its share of accomplished artists who lent their talents to the medium of fabric intended as personal adornment. Thanks to Zika and Lida Ascher, the likes of Henry Moore, Henri Matisse and Alexander Calder can be added to their company. These artists’ designs are among those featured on Ascher scarves, a project of the famed Ascher textile workshop in London. A private collection currently on exhibit offers a window onto a piece of postwar history, as well as the talent of varied artists asked to express themselves in what was for many a new direction.

Known as the Ascher squares, the pieces were created by the Ascher studio between 1942 and 1955 and represent a historical collaboration between fine art and fashion. Most date to the post-war years, reflecting a yearning for optimism and a new start for life and for fashion. Just as the story of the squares is intertwined in the fate of Europe during World War II, so is the very start of the Ascher studio. Czech natives Zika and Lida were avid skiers, and so they headed for the slopes of Norway for their honeymoon in 1939. While they were away celebrating their new marriage, Germany annexed Czechoslovakia. Rather than return, the couple went to London, where they started a textile business. Photographs by Dominic Agostini.



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