Collaboration in Absentia
The retrospection embodied by Slemmons’s new series is really twofold, since it is as much about looking back over her own career as about prying secrets of the early days of human history from the craftsmanship exhibited by ancient stone tools.
Framed by silver bezels darkened to resemble wrought iron or blue steel, exquisitely knapped stone projectile points serve as tacit evidence that the drive to perfect technologies is hardly exclusive to the modern age. In Kiff Slemmons’s most recent work a respect not only for the skills of ancient artisans but also, and more important, for the adherence of those artisans to the highest of aspirations for their craft makes what might have been mere whimsical appropriation a moving reflection on some of the most praiseworthy facets of human nature. The series pays homage to ingenuity and adroitness, but more significantly it gives due recognition to the value of human patience and persistence: specifically, the dogged determination to achieve perfection that has invigorated human endeavor since the days when life truly was nasty, brutish and short. By giving a prominent place in her pendants to ancient stone artifacts and restraining her contributions to a complementary status, Slemmons is clearly less intent on emphasizing her own mastery of materials than on asserting that humans have always sought a better way—a more efficient technology and a more pleasing aesthetic—even millennia ago when their efforts were by necessity directed principally to the task of staying alive.
Through her use of ancient objects Slemmons courts controversy in this period of heightened concern for preserving cultural patrimony, but her practice is not without substantial precedent in the long history of jewelrymaking... (More)
Art Seymour’s name has been synonymous with chevron beads for decades. Art Seymour’s name has been synonymous with chevron beads for decades. No contemporary beadmaker has made so many, nor of such quality, of these historically recognized trade beads and their more innovative contemporary interpretations. Some of his chevrons have nineteen layers and may require six pots of differently colored glass. Seymour tells his own story well on his website, of his decades of involvement with glass (www.seymourchevron.com). He belongs solidly with those at the forefront of the American studio glass movement, having worked at Chico, California, an early center of hotglass innovation. Other well-known glass artists, like John Curtis, also started his glass career there, making electric glass melters (Liu 1998).
In the spring of this year, Seymour came to our office primarily to discuss his long-planned chevron bead book; he is the biggest collector of his own beads and had wanted to share these with his many fans. His Mac laptop was loaded with bead photographs for the forthcoming book, but I felt that just as important was inclusion of portions of his own fascinating life. Artists often do not realize that what he or she contributes to a piece of art is just as important as the backstory... (More)