Exhibition Reviews | Visual Arts

Sparkle and Bling at J-GO Gallery

What does an art collector do when she runs out of wall space? She collects art jewelry. There’s no need for wall space and you can show off pieces of your collection on the go. If this is the least bit appealing, be sure to visit the J-GO Gallery in Park City for the Sparkle and Bling show, Dec. 26 – Jan. 15, 2016.

Though J-GO always has a dozen or so jewelry artists represented in the gallery, once a year it brings in additional jewelers and features this art form throughout the gallery. This year ‘s exhibit features nearly 20 artists whose imaginative designs are skillfully executed in materials ranging from 18-carat gold to rubber-coated stainless steel. The opening reception on Dec. 26, 6-9 p.m., during Park City’s monthly Gallery Stroll, will include chocolate truffles and “something sparkly to go with it.”

Gallery co-owner Jude Grenney has an eye for jewelry artists who go beyond finely crafted “traditional” jewelry to create pieces that make a statement. Take Liaung-Chung Yen, for example. The New York artist uses 18-carat gold, sterling silver and precious stones to create pieces that are intricate and sculptural. He often uses geometric shapes, giving his work a very contemporary aesthetic. And his pieces often have stories as well. On a visit to his website, you will see a necklace he calls “The Secret Garden.” As he describes it, “The geometric shapes with the rough-surface black tourmaline create a stone pathway in the secret garden. The diamonds are the treasures that can be found along the journey.” This necklace won the prestigious NICHE Award in 2013, a prize that recognizes the highest accomplishments of artists in the United States and Canada. Liaung-Chung Yen’s newer work, currently in the gallery, includes earrings that appear to be enclosures, guarding pearls in one case, perhaps nothing in another pair. But the shapes – a cage or a faceted egg shape – suggest a story.

Another artist, Susan Elnora, invites the collector to participate in the narratives suggested by her designs. A sterling silver necklace featuring railroad tracks disappearing into the distance can be paired with a necklace of telephone poles or another with a bird. Living and working in New Mexico, Elnora is inspired by “the unexpected beauty and sense of impending loss that can be encountered in the collision of the industrial and natural worlds,” according to her website. Says Grenney, “We talk about her intention to make a little story with her jewelry, then people get that in their head, and if they like her work, they will create their own little stories with the pieces they like the most.”

In the unusual materials category, Kristin Lora makes jewelry from brushes – paint brushes, makeup brushes, shaving brushes, for example – fitted into stainless steel settings. But these aren’t your cheap synthetic brushes, but fine hairs from fox, rabbit, mink, and chinchilla.

Artist Ellie Thompson is a cyclist. A lot of her designs, says Grenney, are based on her passion for cycling. She even collaborates with a bicycle builder to coat some of her metals with bike enamel.

Another artist, Donna D’Aquino, builds sculptural pieces out of stainless steel wire and dips them in red rubber to coat. The bracelet on display is large and dramatic enough to command its own display shelf should the collector want to display rather than wear it. It’s not something you can wear while typing, notes Grenney.

The annual Sparkle show, now in its fifth year, gives Grenney the opportunity to work with new artists, some of whom might be invited to stay on in the gallery. Grenney says she looks for artists who are not making traditional jewelry, but art to wear. “I like to see something unique… in the materials they use and a little funkier in their aesthetic.” This aesthetic might not be for everyone, she notes. “It takes an artistic person to wear something that’s almost a statement. A lot of the jewelry we offer can be worn every day, but some are really a statement pieces.”

Though no Utah jewelry artists currently are represented in J-GO, Grenney says, “I would love to find some Utah artists who are making the kind of jewelry we are presenting, but so far, no luck.”

There are all kinds of ways to spend that Christmas cash you find under the tree, but nothing can compare with the joy of owning original art. Prices average about $500, but you can take home an original treasure for a modest $125.

“Sparkle and Bling,” group jewelry show, J-GO Gallery, Park City, Dec. 26-Jan. 15, 2016, opening reception Dec. 26, 6-9 p.m. www.jgogallery.com

 

Sue Martin holds an M.A. in Theatre and has worked in public relations. As an artist, she works in watercolor, oil, and acrylic to capture Utah landscapes or the beauty of everyday objects in still life.

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