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SALMON IN THE TREES cuff bracelet of sterling silver, mokume gane, copper, 4.76 x 5.87 x 5.08 x 14.29 centimeters, 2011.

JOAN TENENBAUM

 


Vital and Fragile Interconnections



 

 

 

Joan Tenenbaum’s cuff bracelet called Salmon in the Trees is a striking piece of jewelry. It is also an artful reminder that the ecology of our natural world hangs in easily disrupted balance. The sterling silver cuff is cut and engraved to show a dense Northwest forest inhabited, delightfully, by glistening copper-colored salmon that seem to be swimming through the trees. In the notes she wrote to accompany this 2011 piece, Tenenbaum explained that in the rainforests of Southwest Alaska salmon return to the streams where they were born and along the way many become food for eagles, bears and other predators. The predators digest the salmon and their droppings fertilize the lush streamside foliage and the forest trees. Salmon, the kings of the sea, and old-growth forests may seem worlds apart, but they are in fact dependent on each other for survival.

 

“Perhaps more than any other species salmon connect the oceans with the land,” Tenenbaum says. Salmon need the cool, shaded nesting spots to breed, and the bears, for instance, need to fatten up on the salmon in the late summer to survive winter hibernation. “The tightness of this web of interconnections is so vital and so fragile—paralleling the fragility of our indigenous languages and cultures—this kind of poignancy moves me to make pieces with these deep layers of meaning.”

 

 

 

 


 

 

 

 

Robin Updike
Robin Updike is an arts writer based in Seattle, Washington. A former newspaper art critic, she covered the Seattle fine arts scene for many years and has also covered the Pacific Northwest’s robust jewelry community. For her feature profile in this issue on Joan Tenenbaum, she traveled by ferry and meandering wooded roads to interview Tenenbaum, who has an extraordinary background as both an anthropologist/linguist and a jewelrymaker. Speaking to Tenenbaum was, for Updike, like getting an insider’s take on Alaska, with its tremendous beauty and diverse native cultures. Also in this issue Updike reviews “Protective Ornament: Contemporary Amulets to Armor,” showing at the Tacoma Art Museum through February 1, 2015.


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