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'State of Adornment': Exhibits, symposium challenge thinking on jewelry, art

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Echinacea Brooch, vitreous enamel on copper, is part of the “ECU Metals” exhibit set to open Jan. 18 at Gray Gallery on campus.


By Kim Grizzard
The Daily Reflector

Thursday, January 10, 2019

What started a decade ago as a graduate student project at ECU has become a jewel in the School of Art and Design.

The Material Topics Symposium, the only annual event of its kind in the Southeast, is expected to bring students and faculty from more than 20 universities across the nation to Greenville next week for demonstrations and lectures from a dozen experts.

More than 200 participants from schools including the University of Georgia, Western Michigan University, University of Massachusetts — Dartmouth and Edinboro University of Pennsylvania will attend this year’s event, titled “State of Adornment: Subject to Change.”

In conjunction with the symposium, ECU's Gray Gallery will exhibit “Beyond Ornament,” an exhibition that highlights North Carolina makers of studio jewelry. The exhibition, shown in the fall of 2018 at Greensboro's GreenHill Center for North Carolina Art, challenges viewers to think outside the case when it comes to jewelry design.

“It really is not what most people think of as jewelry,” said ECU graduate student Carolyn A. Buss, who is co-curator of the symposium with Carolina Sephra Reyes.

“Most people think gold, diamonds, gemstones, that kind of thing,” she said. “But what we do is pushing the bounds of fine art. … We consider ourselves artists first.”

For example, symposium keynote lecturer Susie Ganch, interim chair for the Department of Craft and Material Studies in the School of the Arts at Virginia Commonwealth University, has art in the exhibition that was created from found coffee cup lids.

The work of ECU professor emeritus Bob Ebendorf also is included. An acclaimed jewelry and sculpture artist, he is known for his creativity in combining disparate materials.

“He makes jewelry out of stuff he found on the street, and he makes it wearable and beautiful,” Buss said. “Recycling and reusing and using what we found is a common thing in art jewelry but not in fine jewelry. There's sort of that distinction.”

Ebendorf's influence is seen in “ECU Metals,” an invitational exhibition featuring work of ECU faculty and master's of fine arts students. The exhibit, curated by Mi-Sook Hur opens Jan. 18 in Gray gallery, along with “Cadavre Exquis.” Curated by Sarah Tector, “Cadavre Exquis” is an exhibition of art jewelry based on the surrealist practice of the “exquisite corpse.” Nine artists created combined pieces of jewelry from assigned material, only discovering the final version of their works at the end.

Also as part of the Material Topics Symposium, Emerge Gallery & Art Center is exhibiting “Crowning Glory.” The traveling exhibition from Danaca Design in Seattle, Wash., explores the concept of rule as symbolized by impressive jewels and imposing headdresses, crowns and tiaras. It is on exhibit through Jan. 24 in Emerge's Don Edwards Gallery.

A two-dimensional exhibit, “The Ephemeral Archived,” is on exhibit in the Harvey Wooten Gallery. The juried exhibition drew international entries.

Gray Gallery, located in Jenkins Fine Arts Center on Fifth Street, and Emerge, 404 Evans St., will host openings from 6-9 p.m. Jan. 18 as part of the symposium's Gallery Crawl. There is no admission charge. The symposium also will include a half dozen free public lectures Jan. 19-20 in Jenkins’ Speight Auditorium. Free. For a complete schedule, visit materialtopics.com.