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Monday, June 9, 2008

Curious Ornaments

Art Review

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  Man and woman have long chosen to adorn their bodies, be it with paint, metal rings or exotic fabrics. This theme of body ornamentation, from the imaginatively extravagant to the utterly sublime, pervades the exhibit “Frippery: Peculiar Bijoutery or Curiously Adorned?” at the Museum of Wisconsin Art (MWA).

  Nine female artists with Wisconsin connections, several of whom studied under Marna Goldstein Brauner at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, contribute artwork that displays an array of experimental forms and materials. These artists usually work in large-scale metal or fiber installations, but their talents shine like true gems even in this diminutive form.

  Brauner’s organdy arm cuffs, machine-embroidered fabrics with digital photographic prints of Chinese language and culture, hang seven in a line. Titled Good Walls of China, Great Wall Trim, andaccompanied by a photograph of how they might be worn on the arm, the cuffs prompt reflection on the role that China has played in fashioning the world’s clothing.

  Catherine Clark Gilbertson presents a series of neckpieces. Akanthos, a fine silver collar, decorates folded acanthus leaves with bas-relief, creating a peculiarly stunning choker. Wearing this would be like adorning your body with the carefully scrolled end of a classical Corinthian column.

  Wit and irony inhabit the work of several artists. Hai-Chi Jihn’s A Lady Would Never Leave Home Without Her Ring presents the perfect kiss in the form of a ring adorned with a pursed pair of molded lips made of 24-karat gold, polyurethane and copper. Pearl Necklace VIII by Yevgeniya Kaganovich is made of freshwater pearls secreted between pieces of latex that are strung together to form an innovative pearl strand.

  All of these peculiar ornaments defy preconceived expectations of adornment and are displayed to their best advantage by the MWA until July 13.