The holiday season – especially if you have a few days off here and there – offers the perfect chance to visit the Katonah Museum of Art to catch “Outrageous Ornament: Extreme Jewelry in the 21stCentury,” if you haven’t already.
When we advanced the stunning exhibition in our October arts-themed issue, we told you not to expect a classic strand of pearls to be on display. On site, you’ll quickly realize the truth in that statement, though you will see a “strand” of bowling balls, thanks to artist Kathleen Ryan.
“Outrageous Ornament” is all about jewelry that breaks boundaries.
In fact, much of what’s on display isn’t even wearable – and that’s by design, as we heard from Jane Adlin. A former curator of modern and contemporary design at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, she shared her thoughts with WAG in advance of the show, words that reflected her clear vision.
“‘Art’ has always been hierarchically and critically defined. The ‘decorative or applied arts’ frequently included wearables – fashion, accessories, jewelry – and was considered less than a fine art such as painting or sculpture. I am interested in breaking down those kinds of definitions that can be barriers for the makers and collectors. Many museums and galleries are encouraging their patrons to look at jewelry as art. It’s a growing notion and one that I love.”
As you wander the work filling the museum’s two generous galleries, you’ll see everything from larger-than-life “brooches” – from Jennifer Trask’s “Encroachment” to Johathan Wahl’s charcoal drawing, “Teutoburg Brooch” – to works featuring organic materials such as Märta Mattsson’s “Green Cicada” necklace and Naama Bergman’s “Salt Necklace 10.” Works by Marjorie Schick, “Spiraling Over the Line” in particular, also create dramatic pause, while others (the exhibition includes nearly 50 works in all) explore topics including neo nostalgia, storytelling and materials.
Within each, too, are layers of meaning, such as Lola Brooks’ deceptively delicate “Babiesbreath” brooch, created out of stainless steel, diamonds and ivory. As the exhibition materials share, “Brooks’ interest lies in the ‘polarities of existence… love and loss and longing.’ She translates her obsessive investigations of the Napoleonic Wars, fairy tales, Charlotte Brontë’s gothic novels and, in this case, Victorian mourning jewelry into contemporary ornaments of grand proportions and deeply personal objects.”
Taken as a whole, “Outrageous Ornament” accomplishes exactly what Adlin told us she hoped it would:
“I believe that the main theme of the show is for the viewer to get past the wearability factor in jewelry (although not to discard it) and to see the many sides of body ornament along with its beauty, its thoughtfulness, its connection to today’s society and its contribution to art.”
The exhibition continues through Jan. 27, with special programming scheduled throughout the month of January. The museum is at 134 Jay St.
For more, visit katonahmuseum.org.
– Mary Shustack