Curated and Fabricated by Kiff Slemmons
Curated and Fabricated
by Kiff Slemmons
November 6, 2021 – December 2, 2021
In 2001 I was invited by the artist Francisco Toledo in Oaxaca, Mexico, to design jewelry with handmade paper for a recently established workshop in the village of Vista Hermosa.
Since my work in jewelry was mainly in metal, it was a moment to explore new, and beautiful, material. I often wondered if I would ever find a way to combine paper and metal. One day in a bookstore in Seattle, I noticed a basket of paper key tags with metal rims for sale.
There was an idea. Since the tags came in boxes of 50, I bought two, and not long after realized that 10 prints of each finger on each tag would make enough for a necklace—an actual signed piece. I went on to make a number of these pieces as gifts for friends and as a humorous gesture since I do not sign my work.
I never quite let go of the idea of doing something further with the tags. Since making jewelry is a means of connection, why wouldn’t the tags work for that purpose especially during the pandemic? An idea for call and response.
Now 40 artists and friends have contributed tags for this project. Since not all are jewelers, I sent 100 tags without rings and suggested that I would put their completed tags together into necklaces with a common form. Perhaps the tags would brighten this time and provide focus for connection, a “momentary stay against confusion,” as Robert Frost described poetry.
The exhibition of the initial 25 pieces was online in late 2020 through Gallery Loupe and The Jewelry Library as part of New York City Jewelry Week. Though online presence worked in that instance, I still favor other forms of exhibition that may provide more direct access—all the possible ways for seeing and perceiving the work. There’s the combination of intimacy and expanse, what’s also very possible with jewelry—in the hand, on the body, on the wall, on the street.
Since part of my practice has been to widen the view of jewelry as art, advocacy has taken many forms. Baby Dobbs, a great jazz drummer, once said “I play for the benefit of the band.” Perhaps the Tag project is another way of saying this. It is a moment of play, of connection, of identity. We can see in the individual, the reflection of the whole.
I have often said that my work is about more than one to make one. I hope that comes through again in Tag, You’re It!
Most of the photos are not fancy, as most were taken by me with my now quite old iphone. It’s what I could do in current circumstances. There is an element of play in all this and my main concern is that the project is alive and amusing and in a way, a bit subversive in the realm of jewelry. The materials are not inherently precious, but the time and attention to making them elevate their value. Even on this small scale, the energy toward play and invention comes through and once again it’s the generosity of artists who play for the benefit of the band.
Esteem the Givers.
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