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Review: “Obsessed” at Marcia Wood illuminates the skill and art of jewelry

Tzu Ju Chen: "Dragon Entourage," 2016. Paper money, found photograph, silver and monofilament. Courtesy of the artist.
Tzu Ju Chen: "Dragon Entourage," 2016. Paper money, found photograph, silver and monofilament. Courtesy of the artist.

Obsessed, a group exhibition of art jewelry curated by Decatur-residing artist Judy Parady redefines archetypal production practices of jewelry making. The artists in the show identify as artists as opposed to jewelers and in doing so illuminate the skill and craftsmanship at play for their specific niche. Drawing cross-cultural and intersectional influences, Obsessed, is a collection that displays the true talent of artists from Atlanta and elsewhere, no matter the medium.

On view at Marcia Wood Gallery until August 27, Obsessed is a collection of pieces —  from jewelry to metalwork and wall art — by Andrea Rosales-Balcarcel, Ashley Bonds, David Butler, Tzu Ju Chen, Samantha Nania, Judy Parady, Anthony Tammaro, Morgan Hill, Mary Pearse, Demitra Thomloudis and Lauren Tickle-Tietje. Each artist’s micro-collection encapsulates the nature of their own individual obsession, be it grief, geography or culture, and the subsequent inspiration for that fascination.

Most striking were the works of Andrea Rosales-Balcarcel, Tzu Ju Chen and Lauren Tickle-Tietje. Rosales-Balcarcel’s pieces were paired with identical watercolor drawings of various scenes in New York City. These drawings added architectural elements to her work through the use of perspective. Rosales-Balcarcel’s obsession is with the city as well as its architecture, design and engineering. Each piece of jewelry, when matched with its own watercolor scene, reflects a cohesion that could not be present without the partnership of works. This symbiotic relationship between the jewelry and watercolors conveys the depth of Rosales-Balcarcel’s obsession with the City, focusing on its fleeting moments and transient encounters. Rosales-Balcarcel’s work sets the stage for the rest of the show in terms of how the artists inform each other.

Drawing influence from the other side of the globe, Tzu Ju Chen works with Asian paper money used as ceremonial offerings for the dead to craft her jewelry, elevating it from object of mourning to item of adornment. Operating within traditional jewelry-making techniques, Chen subverts these practices with unconventional materials, bonding agents and metals. Chen’s materials also bring symbolism to her work. Juxtaposing Kingfisher feathers with melted monofilament and the luster of silver with hot glue renders her work shifting and textured, multi-faceted and abstract. This multiplicity can also be seen in her wall art. Chen’s pieces visually illustrate the process of art-jewelry making and also the beauty of objects of adornment. In contrast to the architectural shapes found in Balcarcel’s pieces, Chen’s work is fluid and breathing.

Lauren Tickle-Tietje: “Inconsolable," 2016. Ring, silver. Courtesy the artist.
Lauren Tickle-Tietje: “Inconsolable,” 2016. Ring, silver. Courtesy the artist.

Across the gallery, the work of Lauren Tickle-Tietje explores mourning and grief. While a few of her pieces are wearable, most of them are containers, objects, relics or talismans. Detailed with such skill a magnifying glass is necessary to observe the uniqueness of each object, Tickle-Tietje’s works transport the viewer to her own space of loss. A small metal bowl-like container with delicate ring-like protrusions sits near several pieces of transparent shell-like materials that appear to have been burned. These objects seem to be in a permanent state of transformation, like death, grief and loss, operating within the vocabulary of jewelry making, through their fragility and shine, and yet separate from it altogether in rejecting adornment for remembrance of life.

Other works in the gallery by David Butler and Judy Parady exemplify skills in metalworking. Butler’s thin silver works show incredible talent and attention to detail while appearing effortless and delicate. His work with bowls is a testament to the intersections of artists who work in multi-mediums. As beautiful as Butler’s works are, what is most awe-inspiring is his craftsmanship. His works appear effortless as he renders metal objects delicate.

Finally, the talent of Judy Parady, the curator of the project, is also impressive. Her works range from fine rings with precious stones to copper finger traps. Her range of capability is indicative of the artists in the show as a whole. Most remarkable is Parady’s range of jewelry, her collection the most varied and diverse, as she derives influences from antiquity as well as modernity.

Overall, the beauty of “Obsessed” rests within each individual artist’s skill set as they push the boundaries of jewelry making and draw cross-cultural and intersectional influence from the vocabularies of multiple artistic mediums. Distinct from mere jewelry production, Obsessed is a glimpse into a world in which the term “artist” is about flexibility and an adeptness in a medium and form that translates across creative avenues.

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