An exhibition of stunning, sculptural bling at the Museum of Arts and Design shows what happens when photography and jewelry mix
Jordan Doner’s Surveillance Pendant looks like a regular necklace, but it has an unusual function. Made of smoky quartz, sterling sliver, and leather, it contains a tiny HD camera that transmits what it sees to a matching silver Display Cuff, equipped with an LED screen. The James Bond–like pieces turn the wearer’s body into a kind of closed-circuit TV: anyone who comes into view becomes part of the artwork, raising questions about consent and surveillance. The set is part of “Multiple Exposures: Jewelry and Photography,” an exhibition opening May 13 at the Museum of Arts and Design that looks at the quirky and surprising intersections of these ancient and modern crafts. Close to 170 objects use sources ranging from ambrotypes to photocopies, gluing, etching, stitching, and encasing them in glass, enamel, and aluminum to make pieces that reflect changing ideas about beauty verses adornment and technology in relation to the human body.
There are mother-daughter daguerreotype earrings from the 1850s and Gijs Bakker’s 1991 diamond encrusted pin made from a postcard of a Bruce Weber nude, but the show’s focus is on pieces from the turn of the millennium to the digital present, when photography underwent its most recent set of sweeping changes.
Among the most radical are Sarah C. Turner’s disembodied necklace, which is projected onto the wearer’s skin, and Wafaa Bilal’s 3rdi, a silver camera that was implanted on the back of the artist’s skull. For a year it transmitted images to a website where his new life in New York could be watched by those he left behind in Iraq.
Some artists combine the past and present in a single piece, using old photographs to make new jewelry. Bettina Speckner’s brooches set vintage ferrotypes with jasper and rubies; others etch her own photographs on zinc or enamel them on silver. Bernhard Schobinger’s necklace strings together torn 19th-century silver prints on a gold chain. In these, the mysterious or tragic past is transformed into a precious object.
As the solid glass, metal, and paper of analog photography are replaced by pixels and screens, other artists use aging and obsolete photo materials to make poignant associations. Jaimie Macdonald’s Wave Goodbye Ring is made from the familiar white plastic of a film canister, the once ubiquitous by-product of opening a fresh roll of film. The appealing blue jewels in Sandy Johanson’s silver wire neckpiece are vintage 1960 Sylvania flashbulbs, unfired and repurposed.