Here Today: We Are SNAG Membership Exhibition

 
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Inherent vice refers to the intrinsic instability of all materials, which deteriorate over time through entropy. Works of art that are composed of ephemeral materials or are designed to exist for a finite period of time challenge traditional modes of display, valuation and preservation. Because they are finite, they often necessitate “documentary surrogates” that live on photographically, audiovisually, or textually. Ephemerality in the context of jewelry arguably holds an even more nuanced position, challenging historical relationships between value, material, and bodily association.

Here Today marks the 50th anniversary of the Society of North American Goldsmiths’ founding in 1969, a time of radical material exploration in the field of jewelry as well as a time of pivotal experimentation in time-based and ephemeral artwork. For this iteration of the WE ARE SNAG exhibition, we asked the membership to consider temporality, impermanence of material, and ephemera as the curatorial thematic. We aimed to examine works that might be excluded from physical exhibition spaces and further, that might be conceptually linked to the exhibition’s online format and digital mode of display. The submissions for Here Today were compelling, diverse and addressed the notion of ‘ephemerality’ in ways that broadened our expectations of the prompt, from the innovative materiality of the works themselves to their activation and presentation photographically.

Once activated, ephemeral jewelry creates a sensorial experience that often surpasses its material value. A cast wax ring by Linore Huss and chalk pendant necklaces by Nathalie Maiello break down through wear and activation; one melting once the candle wick is lit, and the others disintegrating once wet, leaving a pigmented trace. Gold set cabochons composed of used bar soap in Joshua Kosker’s work frame the familiar tactility of the lubricous, disintegrating medium in a lasting and intimate brooch form, while brooches by Ben Cooke-Akaiwa similarly conceptualize “entropy” in a more abstract expression of sawdust and enamel.  A number of the works in the exhibition exist purely as photographic documentation, moving into an expression of adornment that is rooted in sensorial experience and performance, like the melting necklace composed of ice beads by Checha Sokolovic.

The phrase, “here today, gone tomorrow” refers to an experience, place, or thing that is meant to be savored with the knowledge that the moment will soon pass. Whether it be a connection to personal narrative, relics of an idyllic past, or cautionary reminders, many of the works in Here Today serve as contemporary memento mori objects that confront the viewer with mortality. Some of the works highlight the beauty found in decay and aging while others forewarn us of the lasting impact that our decisions have on others and our environment. Luci Jockel forms intricate, hollow latticed beads from honey bee wings, brilliantly aligning her artistic practice and commemorative use of organic material with Victorian mourning jewelry. Within this context, several pieces elicit a visceral response and increase our own awareness of the body and self. A series by Chloe Darke investigates the cultural biology of a parasitic fungus, metalsmithing a growth dish that references instruments of medical history while also cultivating a living, organic material.

Today, we find ourselves overloaded and preoccupied with documenting the present rather than practicing a state of presence. We celebrate the selected work for capturing what is relevant now and promoting a state of presence for the wearer, while also providing a critical point of inquiry for the field as well as our future.

SARAH DARRO & KATHRYN HALL