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Molly Marz

Exploring the Exquisite

The intimate relationships that are found among materials, processes, and artists in the Metals Program are as beautiful as they are complex. Each piece created goes through a slow multi-step process, which requires the utmost patience. Every little step counts in metal: During these first steps, the intimate relationship between creator and created begins. Senior Emily Breyer describes this intimacy: “The metal goes through so many changes from start to finish and the final product is so drastically different from that first step. As the artist you are the only one who witnesses that.” The intimacy between the artist and his or her work is also made possible by the freedom that is afforded to the students in the Metals Program in terms of their projects. Different techniques are taught; these techniques are then implemented in a specific project. These projects are constructed around the specific technique while the students are left with a considerable amount of freedom to discover how best to utilized and demonstrate their understanding of said technique. Both Breyer and fellow senior Ana Cherry see this freedom as beneficial since it allows them to explore and experiment with different materials and processes. In fact, Breyer notes that this freedom, which includes an emphasis on foreign, non metallic materials, is what sets the Metals Program apart: “The different materials have to have a dialogue with the metal and it’s up to us to figure out that dialogue.” Through this exploration and experimentation, it is hard to imagine that the artist would not form an intimate relationship with his or her work. It is also important to note that Breyer and Cherry are the only two graduating seniors in Metals. Intimacy pervades even the studio. Besides Breyer and Cherry there are only four other students working in the BFA lab.

The Metals studio functions as a kind of microcosm of Art & Design, isolated at the far end of the south quad. This idea of a microcosm also adds to the intimacy of the Metals Program. Most pieces created in the program are supposed either to be worn or to possess some kind of function that requires the hand to touch their surface. In this way the pieces in the Metals Program become tiny sculptural pieces, which are created through intimate processes, including material exploration that also demand an intimate relationship with the viewer.

Both Breyer and Cherry are currently exploring new materials and processes in their thesis work. Breyer is experimenting with growing her own salt and borax crystals to be utilized in her work. She is also using pheasant feathers, enamel, and wood. Breyer is using all of theses materials to bring out the theme of her final thesis in which she explores jewelry as a form and a means to convey her own personal memories of places she has been. In this thesis, the landscape becomes her primary source of inspiration. She wants her work to convey a surreal feeling of escape; places where people want to go. Breyer states that the core idea for her work rests on “the information you get from your environment and how that emotionally effects you.” Thus, Breyer’s work becomes an intimate journey into her own memory.

By contrast, Cherry is working within a completely different framework. As with Breyer, she is utilizing many different foreign, non-metallic materials with metal. Cherry emulates artwork from the Baroque period to create what she calls “a loud statement in terms of the decorative and ornate.” She plans to use porcelain, fabric (such as ruffles and silk), and gemstones: “I’m focusing mainly on the formal qualities of the Baroque period and looking at jewelry primarily as ornamentation. I’m not looking to make a definitive statement, but I want my pieces to call attention to themselves for the decorative elements and their specific formal qualities that scream, ‘Look at me!’” She is currently making large brooches that take inspiration from gilded mirrors.

Through Breyer and Cherry’s work, we are able to see just how multifaceted the Metals Program is. The long hours of each meticulous creation join artist, process, and finally, finished piece in an intimate relationship that is tremendously important. This complex intimate relationship is what makes the Metals Program so unique and engaging. Finally, and most importantly, this relationship draws our attention to the production process and reminds us that the process of making can be just as exquisite as the finished piece.

Interview by Molly Marz with Emily Breyer and Ana Cherry, 15 February 2010