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Protective Ornament: Contemporary Amulets to Armor

Tacoma Art Museum
Tacoma WA – Oct 18, 2014-Feb 11, 2015

Parker Brown, The Defense of Ignorance (helmet)

Parker Brown, The Defense of Ignorance (helmet) (2009), steel, brass, bronze, leather, cotton, wood [Tacoma Art Museum, Tacoma WA, Oct 18-Feb 11] Courtesy of the artist / Photo: Parker Brown


Debra Baxter, Devil Horn Crystal Brass Knuckles (mosh safety)
Debra Baxter, Devil Horn Crystal Brass Knuckles (mosh safety) (2013), quartz crystals, sterling silver [Tacoma Art Museum, Tacoma WA, Oct 18-Feb 11] Courtesy of the artist


Kristin Kiener, Talisman to the Center of the Earth
Kristin Kiener, Talisman to the Center of the Earth (2011), sterling silver, fine silver, brass,gold, steel flashing, steel wire, eyeglass parts, synthetic ruby, pearl, hematite, moonstone, blue topaz, apache tears/obsidian, purple stone, soapstone, plastic toy, shell buttons, antique button, mica, gold foil, watch crystal, dirt ball [Tacoma Art Museum, Tacoma WA, Oct 18-Feb 11] Courtesy of the artist / Photo credit: Margot Geist


This exhibition brings together about 80 unique works by metalsmiths and jewellery artists from around the country who draw from rich histories to reinterpret the role of functional adornment within a contemporary social realm. Organized by the Metal Museum in Memphis, Tennessee, this varied exhibit includes an array of wearable metal work forms, from helmets, breastplates and other protective gear to amulets, talismans and other defensive jewellery. Both simple and elaborate designs are on show here, reflecting the need for protection and personal security that has existed in cultures everywhere from the beginning of humanity.

Protective Ornament pinpoints several themes within this larger topic. First, the age-old spiritual underpinnings of amulets worn to repel unwanted forces are at the root of many of these new pieces.

Second is the influence of physically defensive mechanisms for safeguarding the human form. For some artists represented here, this has involved using deterrence features in their pieces – such as barriers like horns and similarly off-putting protrusions – meant to invoke fear; while other artists have adopted the idea of a second skin or artificial exoskeleton to shield the body from head to toe, but with a contemporary twist to notions of armouring.

Third is the theme of offensive ornamentation. Aggressive wearables that can function both to accessorize and to assault – hairpins, hatpins, spiky jewellery and pieces with warlike imagery – round out this comprehensive look at the duality of safeguarding and adorning ourselves.

tacomaartmuseum.org

Allyn Cantor


 Sun, Nov 9, 2014