5 Questions with Cheryl Eve Acosta

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: Cheryl Eve Acosta
Nominating committee: Greater Kansas City Area Committee / Consulting curator: Barbara O’Brien, formerly of the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art 

Portrait of Cheryl Eve Acosta with her Tattuage line of jewelry; Photo: Jim Barcus

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

There is something unique about working with a naturally occurring material such as metal and being able to endlessly transform its raw nature from its original state. Metals have distinct qualities, such as their conductivity, malleability, resiliency, and strength, providing a variety of processes for me to explore.

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

The intention behind the title Heavy Metal can be perceived in a variety of ways. My selected sculptural adornments reflect the material, but some also allude to the visual weight they could have. My work’s unique copper–fabric process and combination of materials represent the cycle of life. Brightly colored enamel represents birth, copper captures decay, and fabric-and-metal combinations suggest fossils.

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

Besides my hands, fire and electricity play important roles in my work. One allows me to carve, shape, and color metal, while the other permits the fusing of disparate materials.

5a.EriciusBracelet

Cheryl Eve Acosta, Ericius, 2012; Cuff with copper, enamel, and glass, 5 1/4 x 5 1/4 x 1 1/2 in.; Courtesy of the artist; © Cheryl Eve Acosta; Photo by Gene Starr

12c.PalominoWrapNecklceObject

Cheryl Eve Acosta, Palomino, 2015; Cuff with copper and enamel, 3 1/8 x 4 1/2 x 4 3/4 in.; Courtesy of the artist; © Cheryl Eve Acosta; Photo by Gene Starr

9a.CiclosBroochesObject

Cheryl Eve Acosta, Ciclos, 2015; Brooches with copper and enamel, thirteen works ranging from 5/8 x 1 x 7/8 in. to 1 1/4 x 1 x 7/8 in.; Courtesy of the artist; © Cheryl Eve Acosta; Photo by Gene Starr

12b.PalominoWrapNecklceObject

Cheryl Eve Acosta, Palomino, 2015; Collar with copper and enamel, 1 1/4 x 9 x 9 in.; Courtesy of the artist; © Cheryl Eve Acosta; Photo by Gene Starr

4a.HealingBrooch

Cheryl Eve Acosta, Open to Heal, 2009; Cuff with copper and organza, 10 x 11 x 5 1/2 in.; Courtesy of the artist; © Cheryl Eve Acosta; Photo by Affandi Setiawa

10b.FossiliumCollar

Cheryl Eve Acosta, Fossilium, 2015; Collar with copper and organza, 4 x 11 x 13 in.; Courtesy of the artist; © Cheryl Eve Acosta; Photo by Gene Starr

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

Marine life, couture fashion, and architecture continue to be my sources of inspiration. I’m also very driven by the use of technology and how it transforms and redefines art.

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

One of my favorite exhibitions was Manus x Machina at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, which included Dutch artist Iris Van Herpen and her cutting-edge fashion designs.

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.

Meddling with Metal: “Heavy Metal—Women to Watch 2018”

As a medium for artistic production, metal goes back to early human history. Some of the oldest surviving pieces of art include functional and decorative metal objects from cultures around the world. The use of metal has even defined eras of history (such as the Bronze Age and the Iron Age). The 20 artists featured in NMWA’s exhibition Heavy MetalWomen to Watch 2018 employ metal in a myriad of ways to highlight the material’s brilliance, texture, and color.

Cheryl Eve Acosta, Ericius, 2012; Cuff with copper, enamel, and glass, 5 1/4 x 5 1/4 x 1 1/2 in.; Courtesy of the artist; © Cheryl Eve Acosta; Photo by Gene Starr

The fifth installment of NMWA’s Women to Watch series, Heavy Metal showcases the ways that women artists have creatively carried this medium into the contemporary era, and how their works belie the traditionally masculine reputation of metalwork. 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.

Metals can be strong enough to hold up a bridge or a skyscraper, while at the same time intricate enough for fine jewelry. Some catch the eye with gilt and polish, while others are heavy and weathered, speaking to their source—the earth. Featured works by Heavy Metal artists showcase these qualities. Cheryl Eve Acosta’s lightweight cuff bracelets echo the organic shapes of barnacles and coral, but they are made from copper, a malleable metal. In contrast, Summer House (2015) by Leila Khoury contains steel and concrete, traditional metals used in heavy construction. These different uses of metal speak to the innovative methods of artists today.

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

Although the word “metal” often conjures images of gray or bronze-colored works, some artists in Heavy Metal use striking colors in their sculptures. Blanca Muñoz’s Bujía (2013) is an iridescent stainless steel work that incorporates jewel-toned metal mesh planes. An intricate untitled work from 2016 by Alice Hope appears made out of a metal rope, but is actually made of thousands of used beer can tabs, and shines in a vivid vermillion. Lola Brooks’s sacredheartknot (2015) combines steel and gold with bright, smooth Mediterranean coral in a striking textural and color contrast.

Each work in the exhibition  explores the transformable, tactile, and expressive qualities of metal. The largest Women to Watch show to date, Heavy Metal proves the continuing dynamism of this age-old material, and the surprising ways that today’s women artists give it life.

Visit the museum to see Heavy Metal, on view through September 16, 2018. Hear from some 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.