Each of us has a concept of what smithing entails. A brief dictionary search confirms that a smith is: “someone who treats metal by heating, hammering and manipulating with tools.” Further etymological inspection of “smith” both expands (“practitioner of skilled manual arts; craftsman; wright; arranger”) and differentiates (“cut, work with sharp instruments; refine; create; torment”).
While judging this exhibition, jurors spent a fair amount of time discussing what “smithed” works constitute for us as individuals and for the jury as a whole. The resulting selections reflect a reasonable cross section of those conversations. The exhibit conceivably highlights both a commonly held definition of “one who hammers and manipulates metal” as well as an older and broader interpretation of “skilled craftsman, maker” and even “arranger.”
Viewers’ ideas of smithing may differ from aspects of the assembled works, but perhaps they can still find a potential thread between such disparate pieces as Zach Lihatsh’s “Waiting to Speak” and Masako Onodera’s “Hunter.” Or the contrasting forms of a teapot as realized by Joost During and then Peter Evonuk. One expresses an unambiguous connection to the common definition of forged work and the other perhaps a more nebulous association.
Based upon the variety and quality of pieces we have selected for this exhibition, I hope the collection will both confirm viewers’ notions of skillful contemporary smithing and encourage them to contemplate the merit of work that challenges expectations.
- Greg Gehner