5 Questions with Venetia Dale

The fifth installment of NMWA’s Women to Watch exhibition series, Heavy Metal, is presented by the museum and participating national and international outreach committees. The exhibition showcases contemporary artists working in metal, including those who create sculpture, jewelry, and conceptual forms. Heavy Metal engages with the fluidity between “fine” art, design, and craft, whose traditional definitions are rooted in gender discrimination.

Heavy Metal—Women to Watch 2018
Artist: Venetia Dale
Nominating committee: Massachusetts State Committee / Consulting curator: Emily Zilber, editor, Metalsmith (formerly of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston)

Venetia Dale; Photo: Daniel Portal

1. What do you like best about working with metal?

Pewter was commonplace in colonial homes in the form of practical objects like plates and tankards. Today, pewter is often used to make souvenir spoons, wizard figurines, and other trinkets. I am constantly negotiating this associated space, as kitsch and fantasy meet the colonial American home, when I am making my work. I love both the reverence and sense of play that these associations carry.

2. How do your works on view in Heavy Metal fit into your larger body of work?

The works Touchmarks: Made in India (2009), As it Comes to Bear (2015), and Between: Kitchenaid Mixer (2017) share a common thread. I took common-but-overlooked objects (Styrofoam inserts, keychains, and plastic baskets) and translated them through material and form. These works, like most I create, use a similar making methodology of fragmenting an object, then molding and casting it in pewter. Once I have a good stockpile of castings, I cut, piece, and solder them together.

3. As an artist, what is your most essential tool? Why?

My three-wheel vintage Craftsman bandsaw is my most useful tool. It expedites my process by making quick, straight cuts to my castings. I am fascinated by the way people adapt objects to fit their needs. When I bought this bandsaw on Craigslist, it was outfitted with a DIY motor taken from a treadmill. I fell in love with two disparate objects of use becoming one.

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Venetia Dale, As It Comes to Bear (detail), 2015; Teddy bear keychains cast in pewter, found keychains, and pewter, 38 x 42 in.; Courtesy of the artist

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Venetia Dale, As It Comes to Bear, 2015; Teddy bear keychains cast in pewter, found keychains, and pewter, 38 x 42 in.; Courtesy of the artist

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Venetia Dale, Between: Kitchenaid Mixer, 2017; Styrofoam cast in pewter, two elements, each 29 x 21 x 8 in.; Courtesy of the artist

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Venetia Dale, Touchmarks: Made in India, 2009; Fragments of plastic baskets cast in pewter, 22 x 22 x 17 in.; Courtesy of the artist; Photo by Adam Krauth

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Venetia Dale, Touchmarks: Made in India (detail), 2009; Fragments of plastic baskets cast in pewter, 22 x 22 x 17 in.; Courtesy of the artist; Photo by Adam Krauth

4. Who or what are your sources of inspiration and influence? 

I am drawn to what people leave behind and what those traces can tell us about our relationships to things and to one another. My work relies on things people use out of delight, need, or convenience. Sometimes tracing one’s habits of buying and throwing away—or imagining why something is made, and how—guide my work.

5. What is the last exhibition you saw that you had a strong reaction to? 

In 2013, I visited Ann Hamilton’s installation the event of a thread at the Armory in New York. Hamilton took a spacious drill hall and turned it into a place where intimate yet connected interactions occurred. Objects became facilitators that connected the viewers. It was unexpectedly moving, and that is likely why it has stayed with me.

Visit the museum to see Heavy Metal, on view through September 16, 2018. Hear from more of the featured artists through the online Heavy Metal Audio Guide.

5 Questions with Alice Hope

The fifth installment of NMWA’s Women to Watch exhibition series, Heavy Metal, is presented by the museum and participating national and international outreach committees. The exhibition showcases contemporary artists working in metal, including those who create sculpture, jewelry, and conceptual forms. Heavy Metal engages with the fluidity between “fine” art, design, and craft, whose traditional definitions are rooted in gender discrimination.

Heavy Metal—Women to Watch 2018
Artist: Alice Hope
Nominating committee: Greater New York Committee / Consulting curator: Shannon Stratton, Museum of Arts and Design

Alice Hope with her untitled work in Heavy Metal; Photo: Sarah Baker

1. What do you like best about working with metal?

What I love most about working with metal is the material’s reflectivity. Because I use thousands of metal parts to make my work, there are thousands of points for light to potentially bounce. Consequently, the works notably change, as the light changes.

2. How do your works on view in Heavy Metal fit into your larger body of work?

I like my work to appear as if it grew itself, as if the materials reproduced and multiplied. This illusion is suggested in some of my installations; the materials seeming to colonize and take over space. The works in Heavy Metal attempt to suggest this colonizing, within the object or grid.

3. As an artist, what is your most essential tool? Why?

I’m informed by the layers and levels of seeing. These days my most essential tool is my magnifying glasses, but research and dialogue also intensify my seeing.

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Alice Hope, Untitled, 2017; Steel ball chain, used fishing tackle, and found net, 36 x 30 x 30 in.; Private collection; Photo by Jenny Gorman

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Alice Hope, Untitled, 2016; Used Budweiser tabs, 6 ft. diameter; Private collection; Photo by Jenny Gorman

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Alice Hope, Untitled (detail), 2016; Used Budweiser tabs, 6 ft. diameter; Private collection; Photo by Jenny Gorman

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Alice Hope, Untitled, 2012; Aluminum ball chain and perforated metal, 6 x 6 ft.; Private collection; Photo by Jenny Gorman

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Alice Hope, Untitled (detail), 2012; Aluminum ball chain and perforated metal, 6 x 6 ft.; Private collection; Photo by Jenny Gorman

4. Who or what are your sources of inspiration and influence?

Unquantifiable quantities inspire me. I’m deeply moved when looking into a Gaylord box filled with used can tabs, when seeing schools of fish or swarms of insects, or when I’m part of mid-day pedestrian traffic. Perceiving overwhelming numbers of things likens to experiences of the infinite.

5. What is the last exhibition you saw that you had a strong reaction to?

Laurie Anderson’s show at Guild Hall literally had me questioning the ground I stand on. Her work makes me rethink spatial awareness like no other.

Visit the museum to see Heavy Metal, on view through September 16, 2018. Hear from more of the featured artists through the online Heavy Metal Audio Guide.

5 Questions with Petronella Eriksson

The fifth installment of NMWA’s Women to Watch exhibition series, Heavy Metal, is presented by the museum and participating national and international outreach committees. The exhibition showcases contemporary artists working in metal, including those who create sculpture, jewelry, and conceptual forms. Heavy Metal engages with the fluidity between “fine” art, design, and craft, whose traditional definitions are rooted in gender discrimination.

Petronella Eriksson; Photo courtesy of the artist

Heavy Metal—Women to Watch 2018
Artist: Petronella Eriksson
Nominating committee: Sweden Committee / Consulting curator: Inger Wästberg, independent curator

1. What do you like best about working with metal?

I fell in love with metal as a child, after finding a copper cable that had blown into my parents’ garden. I like its plasticity. Metal is almost like clay, but harder and more precise.

2. How do your works on view in Heavy Metal fit into your larger body of work?

Plant growth has always inspired me. These works are no exception. The containers of the sake pot with cups (2017) and of my Water Lily (2013) are inspired by the fleshy, juicy fruit of yellow water lilies. I added airy, three-dimensional lines, like those found in trees and tendrils.

3. As an artist, what is your most essential tool? Why?

When working with metal you never use just one tool. Some of my most essential tools are my goldsmith saw, my rough titanium-coated file, and my favorite light planishing hammer. But, as an artist, it is all in the eye.

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Petronella Eriksson, Water Lily, 2013; Necklace with silver and lemon quartz, 5 1/8 x 15 3/4 x 10 5/8 in.; Courtesy of the artist; Photo by Christian Habetzeder

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Petronella Eriksson, Sake pot with cups, 2017; Silver, 6 x 6 1/4 x 11 3/8 in. (pot); Courtesy of the artist

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Petronella Eriksson, The Forest, 2017; Vessel with silver and wood branch, 4 1/2 x 20 x 2 3/4 in.; Courtesy of the artist

4. Who or what are your sources of inspiration and influence?

In my work I investigate the place of silver in everyday life. For me, the utility of objects is intimately associated with the artistic experience. Function is important. When it comes to the shape of my works, I’m inspired by plants and the way they move, and the way metal really wants to move in the same way.

5. What is the last exhibition you saw that you had a strong reaction to?

It was really not an exhibition at all. I visited one of the few old-growth forests left in Sweden with a skilled botanist. The forest, untouched by humans, is awe-inspiring.

Visit the museum to see Heavy Metal, on view through September 16, 2018. Hear from more of the featured artists through the online Heavy Metal Audio Guide.

5 Questions with Susie Ganch

The fifth installment of NMWA’s Women to Watch exhibition series, Heavy Metal, is presented by the museum and participating national and international outreach committees. The exhibition showcases contemporary artists working in metal, including those who create sculpture, jewelry, and conceptual forms. Heavy Metal engages with the fluidity between “fine” art, design, and craft, whose traditional definitions are rooted in gender discrimination.

Heavy Metal—Women to Watch 2018
Artist: Susie Ganch
Nominating committee: Mid-Atlantic Region Committee / Consulting curators: Stefanie Fedor, Visual Arts Center of Richmond, and Megan Rook-Koepsel, independent curator

Susie Ganch in Heavy Metal; Photo: Sarah Baker

1. What do you like best about working with metal?

I love understanding the properties and characteristics of each metal that I work with. I encourage the material to do what it wants to do naturally. I feel like metal communicates so clearly. Over the years I’ve learned to listen carefully and respond accordingly. But that isn’t to say we don’t argue. Metal can be stubborn—but so can I.

2. How do your works on view in Heavy Metalfit into your larger body of work?

The work in Heavy Metal is pivotal to my studio practice today. These pieces were the first time I explored techniques and larger scales that were unfamiliar to me as a jeweler. Falling in Love: 1999 (2011–13) was the first time I used collected material rather than generating my own. Now, I often work with trash including used coffee lids, collected bottle and container lids, and other unwanted items easily gathered from my community. I connect my work to the outside world.

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Susie Ganch, Untitled, 2010; Steel, enameled copper, and panel, 24 x 36 x 12 in.; Courtesy of the artist and Sienna Patti Contemporary; Photo by Taylor Dabney

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Susie Ganch, Untitled (detail), 2010; Steel, enameled copper, and panel, 24 x 36 x 12 in.; Courtesy of the artist and Sienna Patti Contemporary; Photo by Taylor Dabney

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Susie Ganch, Untitled, 2007; Steel and cast plastic, 84 x 13 x 8 in.; Courtesy of the artist and Sienna Patti Contemporary; Photo by Taylor Dabney

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Susie Ganch, Untitled (detail), 2007; Steel and cast plastic, 84 x 13 x 8 in.; Courtesy of the artist and Sienna Patti Contemporary; Photo by Taylor Dabney

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Susie Ganch, Falling in Love: 1999, 2011–13; Mixed media, collected detritus, and steel, 12 x 62 x 12 in.; Courtesy of the artist and Sienna Patti Contemporary; Photo by David Hunter Hale

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Susie Ganch, Falling in Love: 1999, 2011–13; Mixed media, collected detritus, and steel, 12 x 62 x 12 in.; Courtesy of the artist and Sienna Patti Contemporary; Photo by David Hunter Hale

3. As an artist, what is your most essential tool? Why?

As an artist my most essential tool is my curiosity. In the studio, I am driven to create things that I would not otherwise see, to understand things I can’t fully grasp. This is my drive as an artist. Any physical tool would be useless without this state of mind.

4. Who or what are your sources of inspiration and influence?

Inspiration and influence change as my work changes over time. These days, I am often motivated by my concerns for the environment and our collective habits of consumption.

5. What is the last exhibition you saw that you had a strong reaction to?

The Institute of Contemporary Art at Virginia Commonwealth University recently held its grand opening with Declaration. I was incredibly moved by Cassils’s Inextinguishable Fire (2015) and Paul Rucker’s Storm in the Time of Shelter.

Earlier this year I saw Unspeakable: Atlas, Kruger, Walker: Hammer Contemporary Collection and was overwhelmingly moved by Kara Walker’s work. The American Folk Art Museum’s exhibition War and Pieced was a moving display of the power of material and the healing force of craft.

Visit the museum to see Heavy Metal, on view through September 16, 2018. Hear from more of the featured artists through the online Heavy Metal Audio Guide.

Artist Spotlight: Lola Brooks

The fifth installment of NMWA’s Women to Watch exhibition series, Heavy Metal, is presented by the museum and participating national and international outreach committees. The exhibition showcases contemporary artists working in metal, including those who create sculpture, jewelry, and conceptual forms. Heavy Metal engages with the fluidity between “fine” art, design, and craft, whose traditional definitions are rooted in gender discrimination.

Heavy Metal—Women to Watch 2018
Artist: Lola Brooks
Nominating committee: Georgia Committee / Consulting curator: Sarah Schleuning, Dallas Museum of Art (formerly of the High Museum of Art)

Lola Brooks with her works in Heavy Metal; Photo: Sarah Baker

Self-adornment through jewelry has a long history. That fascinating history is something that profoundly interests artist Lola Brooks. “I believe in the power of jewelry’s intimate scale and symbiotic reliance on the body, and the fact that its beauty and materiality have always been poisoned by a shameless celebration of wealth, excess, and debaucheries,” says Brooks.

Brooks is known for her large and enigmatic wearable pieces, five of which are featured in Heavy Metal. Each contains some of the artist’s favorite motifs including hearts, roses, ruffles and bows—all classic romantic symbols. However, Brooks’s works contain a subtly edgy and dark quality. Take the dripping tear edged in vermillion coral in the heart of sacredheartknot (2015) or the macabre quality of the dead quails in twointhehand (2015), chained in an endless embrace.

Some of the interesting materials like these taxidermy birds come from Brooks’s interest in collecting everything from vintage accessories, potted meats, and plaid pantsuits. Another work, byebabybunting (2015), features a children’s vintage rabbit fur muff and antique ivory. “I find power in accumulation,” says the artist. ”It is an inextricable piece of who I am in the world. With only a few things, I tuck them away to keep safe…If I am lucky, they will become a hoard.”

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Lola Brooks, byebabybunting, 2015; Vintage child’s rabbit fur muff, stainless steel chain, 14-karat gold solder, diamonds, and hand-carved antique ivory with 14-karat gold, 5 x 5 x 2 in.; Collection of Marion Fulk; Photo by Sienna Patti

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Lola Brooks, four&twenty, 2015; Stainless steel, 14-karat gold solder, and champagne rose-cut diamonds, 4 1/2 x 5 x 2 1/4 in.; On loan from Allen and Irene Natow; Photo by Sienna Patti

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Lola Brooks, babiesbreath, 2015; Stainless steel, antique ivory roses, 14-karat gold, and champagne diamonds, 6 x 6 x 3 in.; Courtesy of Sienna Patti; Photo by Sienna Patti

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Lola Brooks, twointhehand, 2015; Male and female quail, walnut, stainless steel, 14-karat gold solder, and diamonds, 14 x 3 1/4 x 1 3/4 in.; On loan from Susan C. Beech; Photo by Sienna Patti

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Lola Brooks, sacredheartknot, 2015; Stainless steel chain, 14-karat gold solder, and Mediterranean coral, 13 x 11 in.; On loan from Allen and Irene Natow; Photo by Sienna Patti

Brooks combines these varied materials with metals and stones of different values including gold, stainless steel, silver, and diamonds, in a way that questions material hierarchy. She often inverts expectations, by using the more precious material such as gold as solder for stainless steel. In a culture that often measures jewelry’s value by the volume of its precious materials, Brooks upends expectations.

Brooks’s intricate works make viewers wonder, and that is precisely the artist’s intent. “I have tossed out the safety of the abstract in favor of the obvious,” says Brooks, “in hopes that people may dig a little deeper into what they think they understand, discovering the mysteries that my arrow is aimed at, buried alive somewhere within that saccharine shell of cliché.”

Visit the museum to see Heavy Metal, on view through September 16, 2018. Hear from more of the featured artists through the online Heavy Metal Audio Guide.

—Nana Gongadze is the 2018 summer publications and communications/marketing intern at the National Museum of Women in the Arts.

5 Questions with Katherine Vetne

The fifth installment of NMWA’s Women to Watch exhibition series, Heavy Metal, is presented by the museum and participating national and international outreach committees. The exhibition showcases contemporary artists working in metal, including those who create sculpture, jewelry, and conceptual forms. Heavy Metal engages with the fluidity between “fine” art, design, and craft, whose traditional definitions are rooted in gender discrimination.

Heavy Metal—Women to Watch 2018
Artist: Katherine Vetne
Nominating committee: San Francisco Advocacy for NMWA / Consulting curator: Jenny Gheith, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art

Katherine Vetne; Photo courtesy of the artist

1. What do you like best about working with metal?

Metal acts as a mirror when it is reflective. My use of high-gloss silver nitrate on melted lead crystal distorts the reflections of viewers as they peer into the surface of one of my sculptures. I also work in a Renaissance-era drawing medium called metalpoint. Using metal as a drawing tool creates the potential for an over-the-top level of precision that informs the sense of opulence in my work.

2. How do your works on view in Heavy Metal fit into your larger body of work?

My work in Heavy Metal builds on my current interests: mainstream womanhood, notions of desire, commodity culture, class, and excess. Using lead crystal as subject matter in my drawings and sculptures allows me to mine the history of still-life alongside an examination of the ways in which idealized (and distorted) forms of femininity are bought, sold, consumed, and mass-produced.

3. As an artist, what is your most essential tool? Why?

Ebay. It’s a great tool for observing the detritus of our domestic culture. Most of the crystal I buy looks dated, and there often isn’t a demand for it. These objects become a burden on people. Lead crystal is technically valuable, and yet there is no market for other people’s unwanted heirlooms. Sometimes I suspect that I am the only one buying it.

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Katherine Vetne, Selling the Dream, 2017; Three lead crystal Avon pitchers, melted and mirrored with silver nitrate, 45 x 11 x 10 3/4 in.; Courtesy of the artist; Photo by John Janca

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Katherine Vetne, Amassment, 2017; Eight lead crystal pitchers, melted and mirrored with silver nitrate, 24 x 48 in.; Courtesy of the artist and Catharine Clark Gallery, San Francisco; Photo by John Janca

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Katherine Vetne, Perfect Purity, High Resistance, Lasting Sparkle, 2017; Rose-gold metalpoint on toned chalk ground on paper, 21 1/2 x 21 1/2 in.; Courtesy of the artist and Catharine Clark Gallery, San Francisco; Photo by John Janca

4. Who or what are your sources of inspiration and influence?

I’m interested in cultural phenomena that symbolize oddness and excess. Currently I’m looking at competitive table-setting competitions, home decorating in the era of Reaganomics, and Louise Linton’s infamous Instagram post full of designer goods and hurt feelings. I also look up to artists Cornelia Parker, Lynda Benglis, Brett Reichman, Petah Coyne, Laura Krifka, Rachel Stern, and Clara Peeters.

5. What is the last exhibition you saw that you had a strong reaction to?

I could have spent weeks wandering the galleries of the Michelangelo drawing show that was on view at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York last winter.

Visit the museum to see Heavy Metal, on view through September 16, 2018. Hear from more of the featured artists through the online Heavy Metal Audio Guide.

5 Questions with Carolina Sardi

The fifth installment of NMWA’s Women to Watch exhibition series, Heavy Metal, is presented by the museum and participating national and international outreach committees. The exhibition showcases contemporary artists working in metal, including those who create sculpture, jewelry, and conceptual forms. Heavy Metal engages with the fluidity between “fine” art, design, and craft, whose traditional definitions are rooted in gender discrimination.

Heavy Metal—Women to Watch 2018
Artist: Carolina Sardi
Nominating committee: Florida State Committee / Consulting curator: Diana Nawi, Pérez Art Museum Miami

Carolina Sardi, Photo: Mariano Costa Peuser

1. What do you like best about working with metal?

Metal allows you to do almost anything if you know how to work with it. I love that it is an industrial material that I can transform into objects, sculptures, and installations that seem organic and that can be viewed as a different material. That creates a sense of mystery that is important in art.

2. How do your works on view in Heavy Metal fit into your larger body of work?

The pieces chosen for Heavy Metal are from the series of my work called “Landscapes.” In this series I explore two-dimensional space with sculptural elements that I use in my other works. I create different layers by incorporating the painted background and the directional lines that I use to create my compositions on the wall. My works tell a story that can be interpreted in different ways by the viewer.

3. As an artist, what is your most essential tool? Why?

My most essential tools are my brain and my heart. Materials and tools are secondary if you don’t have your heart and your brain to process and to express yourself.

Carolina Sardi_ Grandfather_ Cricket and I_ Plated Steel over Painted Wall_ 91_ x 156_ x 2_ 2016_ Photo by Mariano Costa Peuser

Carolina Sardi, Grandfather, Cricket and I, 2016; Plated steel over painted wall, 91 x 156 x 2 in.; Courtesy of the artist and Pan American Art Projects Miami; Photo by Mariano Costa Peuser

Carolina Sardi_ Black Holes_ Plated Steel over Painted Wall_96_ x 96_ x 2_ 2012_ Photo by Mariano Costa Peuser

Carolina Sardi, Black Holes, 2012; Plated steel over painted wall, 96 x 96 x 2 in.; Courtesy of the artist and Pan American Art Projects Miami; Photo by Mariano Costa Peuser

4. Who or what are your sources of inspiration and influence?

I draw influence from everyday life, my personal experiences, and my search for balance between opposites. I look for answers about why we are here, what are we made of, how the universe works, and how we interact with each other.

5. What is the last exhibition you saw that you had a strong reaction to?

William Kentridge’s More Sweetly Play the Dance impacted me because of his use of repetition. Through layering drawing, movement, and music, Kentridge conveys that migration, illness, and death are inevitable, but humans continue to hope despite it all.

Visit the museum to see Heavy Metal, on view through September 16, 2018. Hear from more of the featured artists through the online Heavy Metal Audio Guide.

5 Questions with Kerianne Quick

The fifth installment of NMWA’s Women to Watch exhibition series, Heavy Metal, is presented by the museum and participating national and international outreach committees. The exhibition showcases contemporary artists working in metal, including those who create sculpture, jewelry, and conceptual forms. Heavy Metal engages with the fluidity between “fine” art, design, and craft, whose traditional definitions are rooted in gender discrimination.

Heavy Metal—Women to Watch 2018
Artist: Kerianne Quick
Nominating committee: Southern California Committee / Consulting curator: Bobbye Tigerman, Los Angeles County Museum of Art

Kerianne Quick; Photo: Angie Ollman

1. What do you like best about working with metal?

Metal is an amazing shapeshifter that can be endlessly re-formed, from solid to liquid and back to solid. I love the idea that the metal I work with has an unseen history. It was once part of the regalia of ancient royalty, or a simple circle worn for decades around your grandmother’s finger. Because we carry it, use it to mark occasions, and re-form it to suit the needs of its user, metal continually bares witness to individual lives and the history of humanity.

2. How do your works on view in Heavy Metal fit into your larger body of work?

I am currently exploring contemporary forms of portable wealth. For millennia, jewelry has been an important means of transporting wealth. Material value plays an important role, but it is not the only value jewelry holds. Jewelry can reconnect the wearer to spaces that are no longer accessible. My current project A Portrait of People in Motion looks at the role of objects in movement and migration, both voluntary and forced. The works in Heavy Metal explore my own experience with spatial displacement—both real and imagined.

3. As an artist, what is your most essential tool? Why?

My hands are my most essential tools. Making by hand is a way of thinking and learning that is not directly associated with intellect. I rely on proprioceptive interactions between my body and the material, leading me to act intuitively as I work.

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Kerianne Quick, What Time and Distance Cannot Shrink, 2017; Copper, fine silver, and sterling silver, dimensions variable; Courtesy of the artist

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Kerianne Quick, What Time and Distance Cannot Shrink (detail), 2017; Copper, fine silver, and sterling silver, dimensions variable; Courtesy of the artist

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Kerianne Quick, The Utility of Sentimental Emotions, and Perceived Value, 2017; Sterling silver, copper, and steel, 24 x 5 x 1/4 in.; Courtesy of the artist

4. Who or what are your sources of inspiration and influence?

I am obsessed with material and the information it can carry. I am inspired by the stories that objects can relate, authenticate, and enhance. I have made several bodies of work in this material-specific way of working. I explored communal sheep farming practices in the Orkney Isles, sugar farming in Hawaii, native copper mining in Ontonagon County, and derelict brickyards in New York’s Hudson Valley.

5. What is the last exhibition you saw that you had a strong reaction to?

I loved Dahn Vo: Take My Breath Away at the Guggenheim. He masterfully re-contextualizes objects in the physical space of the museum, allowing their historical significance to become an amalgam of new meaning and a new narrative. As a metalsmith, I think Vo’s We the People is a must see!

Visit the museum to see Heavy Metal, on view through September 16, 2018. Hear from more of the featured artists through the online Heavy Metal Audio Guide.

Artist Spotlight: Charlotte Charbonnel

The fifth installment of NMWA’s Women to Watch exhibition series, Heavy Metal, is presented by the museum and participating national and international outreach committees. The exhibition showcases contemporary artists working in metal, including those who create sculpture, jewelry, and conceptual forms. Heavy Metal engages with the fluidity between “fine” art, design, and craft, whose traditional definitions are rooted in gender discrimination.

Charlotte Charbonnel with Train End (2016) in Heavy Metal; Photo: Sarah Baker

Heavy Metal—Women to Watch 2018
Artist: Charlotte Charbonnel
Nominating committee: Les Amis du NMWA (France) / Consulting curator: Alicia Knock, Centre Pompidou

Works by French artist Charlotte Charbonnel often highlight invisible forces, like sound and magnetic waves. Charbonnel’s work focuses on “different visual qualities, the physical instability, and the acoustic properties of elements.”

Two of Charbonnel’s works in Heavy Metal, Petit colosse n°7 (2016) and Resonarium (2011), contain iron filings suspended in space by magnetism. Resonarium, in particular, demonstrates the strange way in which magnets can help metal defy gravity. The work’s central core rotates slowly on a motor while iron filings shift subtly, pulled by an invisible magnetic attraction. Viewers may find the work to have a magical, hypnotic quality.

Charbonnel is attracted to metal for its transformative qualities. “Metal, through its different states (powder, solid, and liquid) allows a transformation that I try to reveal in my work,” says the artist. “Because metal can transform from one state to another, it seems almost alive, organic.”

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Charlotte Charbonnel, Petit colosse n°7, 2016; Iron filings and resin, 9 1/2 x 9 1/2 x 9 1/2 in.; Courtesy of Backslash; Photo by Salim Santa Lucia

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Charlotte Charbonnel, Resonarium, 2011; Aluminum, iron powder, magnets and motor, 59 1/8 x 35 1/2 x 15 3/4 in.; Courtesy of Backslash; Photo by François Deladerrière

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Charlotte Charbonnel, Resonarium (detail), 2011; Aluminum, iron powder, magnets and motor, 59 1/8 x 35 1/2 x 15 3/4 in.; Courtesy of Backslash; Photo by François Deladerrière

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Charlotte Charbonnel, Train End, 2016; Measuring tool and stainless rods, 11 7/8 x 13 3/8 in.; Courtesy of Backslash; Photo courtesy of the artist; © Charlotte Charbonnel

Charbonnel sees iron filings as “independent, mutable pieces until they come into contact with magnets.” She is interested in the way that the “resulting shape can evoke a mineral, an animal, or a fossil.” Charbonnel’s intriguing sculptures and installations blend science and art and highlight the enigmatic beauty of natural forces.

Visit the museum to see Heavy Metal, on view through September 16, 2018. Hear from more of the featured artists through the online Heavy Metal Audio Guide.

—Nana Gongadze is the 2018 summer publications and communications/marketing intern at the National Museum of Women in the Arts.

5 Questions with Serena Porrati

The fifth installment of NMWA’s Women to Watch exhibition series, Heavy Metal, is presented by the museum and participating national and international outreach committees. The exhibition showcases contemporary artists working in metal, including those who create sculpture, jewelry, and conceptual forms. Heavy Metal engages with the fluidity between “fine” art, design, and craft, whose traditional definitions are rooted in gender discrimination.

Heavy Metal—Women to Watch 2018
Artist: Serena Porrati
Nominating committee: Gli Amici del NMWA (Italy) / Consulting curator: Iolanda Ratti, Museo del Novecento

Serena Porrati with Thin Film (2017); Photo: Sarah Baker

1. What do you like best about working with metal?

During my masters in Art and Science at Central Saint Martins I spent most of my time in the metal workshop, where I quickly got involved in welding. I was attracted by the physicality of the work. Metal requires your mind but also your muscles.

I’m excited by the speed of welding and by the possibility of building heavy structures in only a few hours. I also appreciate metal’s intrinsic properties. I realized that I wasn’t interested in using metal to represent something. I was using it to study and question its own materiality, establishing a discourse with it.

2. How do your works on view in Heavy Metal fit into your larger body of work?

The works presented here are not fixed or defined, rather they evoke their own history or a discourse. They constantly question their own origin and destiny.

I don’t see the metals as a passive stuff. As theorist Jane Bennett states, this habit of parsing the world into dull matter (it, things) and vibrant life (us, beings) is a “partition of the sensible.” The quarantines of matter and life encourage us to ignore the vitality of matter and the lively powers of material formations.

3. As an artist, what is your most essential tool? Why?

I use heat as a brush, as a process of transformation, and a tool to operate. By mimicking geological and industrial processes, engaging with ideas of control and chance, working with metal and heat, I mark a trajectory between the organic and the inorganic, the animate and inanimate, life and non-life, the raw material and the artifact. It’s an attempt to evade binary categories of thought.

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Serena Porrati, Thin Film, 2017; Copper, 15 3/4 x 12 in.; Courtesy of Space4235 Genoa

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Serena Porrati, Damascus Sunset, 2017; Steel, 1 1/4 x 24 7/8 in.; Courtesy of the artist

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Serena Porrati, Collapse, 2014; Cast iron, 7 7/8 x 9 7/8 x 3 1/2 in.; Courtesy of the artist

4. Who or what are your sources of inspiration and influence?

Science, nature, and the forest outside my house, but also the heavy cargo airplanes that fly over my house inspire me. I enjoy reading and listening to contemporary philosophers, including Donna Haraway, Elisabeth Povinelli, John Zerzan, Hannah Tzing, and Jane Bennett—and also their predecessors, Tommaso Bruno, Spinoza, Nietzsche, Thoreau, Darwin, Adorno, and Deleuze.

5.What is the last exhibition you saw that you had a strong reaction to?

Carta Canta was a collective show held at Il Foglio, a printing workshop in Milan where etchings from great masters of art history were exhibited alongside works by contemporary artists.

Visit the museum to see Heavy Metal, on view through September 16, 2018. Hear from more of the featured artists through the online Heavy Metal Audio Guide.