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MERRY AND STANLEY RENK on a tandem bicycle, 1944.

Photograph courtesy of the family of Merry Renk.

Merry Renk

A Jewel in the Crown of Life




I’m ready to say goodbye to everyone. Live well. Follow your passions. Enjoy your life. Learn. Love. Do everything you can with it because you don’t know where you’re going. Neither do I. But I ask myself: What symbol do I have to take me through? And I have this picture of a very little toy-like black convertible, and in it, I’m sitting, a big person, that is much bigger, like a doll sitting in a toy car, But the car is going, the car is moving, and I’m just waving, saying BYE.

The American studio jewelry movement lost one of its pioneers and visionaries with the passing of Merry Renk on June 17, 2012 at the age of ninety. Renk, who was also a talented painter and sculptor, was a professional goldsmith for more than thirty years. She is recognized for her achievements, most notably as co-founder and Lifetime Member of the Metal Arts Guild, San Francisco (established 1951), as a Distinguished Member of the Society of North American Goldsmiths, as a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship recipient in 1974, and as an inductee in 1994 into the American Craft Council College of Fellows for mastery in the field.

But, of course Renk’s life and body of work cannot be defined merely by an account of her awards and honors, as her life was rich and full of vignettes, wonder and intrigue. Ultimately these separate chapters were connected and linked together, like the modular components of the gold and silver jewelry that the artist assembled into bracelets, necklaces and crowns fabricated from the intricate interlocking patterns that she had first worked out in cut paper, and then sawed in metal. In the end, all became dynamic and organic as she moved from one connection to the next, like an electrical current traveling the wire toward its next charge, its next point of contact.






Jo Lauria
is an independent curator, writer and lecturer. The interview she conducts with Arline Fisch in this issue is the culmination of working with Fisch closely over the course of the last year to prepare for her solo exhibition as the Distinguished Woman Artist of 2012 at the Fresno Art Museum, which Fisch had asked Lauria to curate. Lauria had first met Fisch over ten years ago when working as a decorative arts curator at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, and since has been a devoted admirer and dedicated friend. Lauria considers the experience of working with Fisch on her solo show, and conducting this interview was, as always, an inspiring and meaningful experience, as “Arline has a zest for life that is, well, zesty, and the wisdom and creativity to make life worth living.”



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