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.

necklace_Water_lily_silver_ lemon_quartz_petronella_erikssonphotograp_ Christian_Habetzeder.

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


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

Jug _The_forest_Silver_wood_Petronella_Eriksson _2_

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.

Alchemy of Fashion: The Wearable Art of “Heavy Metal”

From jackets made of hammered sheet metal, to cuffs of delicate copper and organza, Heavy Metal—Women to Watch 2018 features a diverse array of wearable art. On one level, these pieces can be appreciated as sculptural works of art. On another, they are functional objects.

Left: Carolina Rieckhof Brommer, Self-portrait 4, 2005; Welded steel, 47 1/4 x 27 1/2 x 19 3/4 in.; Courtesy of the artist; Photo by Natalia Revilla; Right: 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

Artists Kerianne Quick and Carolina Rieckhof Brommer create wearable works that speak to the intimate roles that clothing and accessories can play in people’s lives. For both artists, metal is intrinsic to the meaning of their works. Quick’s The Utility of Sentimental Emotions, and Perceived Value (2017) references the objects that migrants—by choice or necessity—decide to leave behind or take with them. Quick’s work explores the significance and weight that a metal key can have to humans. Brommer’s welded steel coat, Self-portrait 4 (2005), mimics the folding and texture of fabric’s patchwork, but is as hard and immovable as armor. Brommer’s work was influenced by issues surrounding violence against women. The experience of shielding one’s body through clothing is not uncommon for many women.

Left: 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; Right: 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

Several Heavy Metal artists create wearable art in the form of jewelry. Their works play with contrast and highlight metal’s lustrous qualities. Artists Petronella Eriksson and Cheryl Eve Acosta take inspiration from the natural world. Eriksson’s necklace, Waterlily (2013), contains smooth silver and a large piece of lemon quartz. Delicate, curling tendrils spill onto one shoulder of the person wearing the necklace. A minimalistic take on the flower, the cut gem references the yellow fruit at the center of a real plant. Acosta, influenced by the tropical environment of her native Puerto Rico, finds inspiration beneath the sea. Although Acosta’s cuff Birth (2015) and collar Healing (2009) are made from copper, they refer to the shapes and forms of coral and barnacles.

Metal is both a standard material for delicate jewelry and an unlikely material for clothing. The artists in Heavy Metal embrace the unexpected to create innovative, dynamic works.

Heavy Metal—Women to Watch 2018 is on view through September 16, 2018.

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