Metals 2022 runs from Jan. 29 through Friday online, presented by the James Pearson Duffy Department of Art and Art History’s Art Department Gallery.
The exhibition, sponsored by the Michigan Silversmiths Guild, features artwork from 10 jewelry and metalsmithing artists, including from Wayne State, Eastern Michigan University, Bowling Green State University, and the College for Creative Studies.
Katie MacDonald, exhibition organizer and WSU lecturer of sculpture and metalsmithing, said this project is a part of the Guild’s goal of supporting education.
“Oftentimes the Guild will hold workshops and they’re not necessarily college students that are participating,” MacDonald said. “You might have hobbyists, you might have people who have picked up metal smithing later in life. So this is sort of considered an extension of that part of the mission.”
Associate Professor of Metalsmithing Evan Larson-Voltz said faculty from the various colleges were involved in recruiting artists for the exhibition. Organizers reached out to them for recommendations on students, faculty and alumni who could participate.
MacDonald said the exhibition was originally planned to be held in person in January, and it would have been the first on-campus exhibition in the Art Department Gallery since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. This was disrupted when WSU moved classes and campus activities virtual throughout January.
“Unfortunately due to the COVID surge that was happening just before winter break, the decision was made to move this exhibition online, and one benefit of that I think is that it extends the window or possibility for people to see the exhibition,” MacDonald said . “So you have further reach and you have a longer period of time where people can kind of tune into it and see it.”
Transitioning to a virtual exhibition required a lot of preparation, she said.
“The prep work for an online exhibition is quite different than it is for an in-person exhibition. So when you’re all of a sudden relying on photographs, there is a lot of things that have to be done, a lot of data entry that has to be done,” MacDonald said. “So (the WSU gallery staff) were wonderful in just sort of shifting gears and being able to pivot this exhibition into the complete opposite format.”
Though there have been benefits to the virtual exhibition, being in person could have created a beneficial dialogue among the various colleges involved, MacDonald said.
Participating artists included WSU faculty, students and alumni.
Metalsmithing major Alaina Kraus featured her pieces “New Oceans” (2021) and “Untold Stories: Oblivion” (2021).
“(New Oceans) was inspired by the automaton work of Kim Nogueira. She draws a lot of her inspiration from quotes and stories, so this piece was inspired by André Gide’s quote, ‘Man cannot discover new oceans unless he has the courage to lose sight of the shore,’” she said in a March 25 email to The South End. “This quote is actually etched into the back of the piece, though I don’t believe that is visible in the online exhibit.”
Kraus said the pandemic’s impact on adolescents’ mental health influenced her second piece, “Oblivion” (2021).
“This piece was inspired by an article I read during the shutdown talking about the rise in suicide and depression due to the isolation from friends and families and how it was even higher among teenage girls,” she said. “The interior of the book contains 17 blue tinted handmade and handbound pages. It is held shut with a brass clasp that has been wrapped tightly with twine, which is difficult to break in spite of its appearance of fragility.”
MacDonald said she enjoyed witnessing each artist’s character in this exhibition.
“So the fun part, for me as the organizer, is getting this sort of macro view of all of these programs and being able to sort of make connections between the students and the faculty, and also start to witness the distinct personalities of each institution reveal itself through the work,” she said.
Larson-Voltz featured his pieces “Improvised Tourniquet Before Stitches” (2020) and “Orbit” (2017).
“Orbit” (2017) is about the relationship of the object and wearer, and “Improvised Tourniquet Before Stitches” (2020) is about the disbursement of information.
He said he became interested in blacksmithing processes and techniques, as well as certain imagery, which were later translated onto “Improvised Tourniquet Before Stitches” (2020).
“It occurred to me that because most of this knowledge (of blacksmithing processes and techniques) was largely undocumented at that time, this consciousness was likely being transferred within a studio/workshop environment from the principal smithy to shop apprentices,” Larson-Voltz said .
MacDonald said she hopes to host exhibitions on campus going forward.
“The thing that comes to mind immediately is just to be able to provide an in-person experience again for gallery goers,” she said. “In thinking about this exhibition in the past, it’s been really well received and warmly received by our gallery patrons. So I am looking forward to bringing that experience and then the next iteration of this exhibition.”
Ashley Harris is the arts and entertainment editor for The South End. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Cover photo provided by Katie MacDonald.