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METALSMITH 2007 _ volume 27 number 5 _ Reviews _ Page 58

"Iris Bodemer and Maria Phillips: Sculpture becomes Jewelry"

Spiral at Grover Thurston Gallery, Seattle, Washington

November 2 - December 2, 2006

by Judy Wagonfeld

Flip the title "Sculpture becomes Jewelry" to "Jewelry becomes sculpture." Now you have a glimpse into the chicken-and-egg dichotomy of this exhibition, curated by Sharon Campbell. But that merely scratches the surface. The exhibit's innovation stretches well beyond re-categorizing objects, to fuse concepts of sculpture and jewelry into a third entity of "functional installation." Individual pieces surrender their identity to the assemblage; nevertheless, each brooch and necklace, when discovered, plucked, and worn, holds its own.

Artist Iris Bodemer (Pforzheim, Germany) and Maria Phillips (Seattle), seem nurtured by the pioneering and intellectual spirit of the late sculptor Eva Hesse. Perched on the cusp of virgin territory, they strive towards cohesive mosaics embedded with adornements for the human body. Making a single piece of jewelry is a cakewalk next this obstacle-ridden path, but both pull it off with panache.

Bodemer's work evolves from Minimalism, imposing strict conceptual restraints on its production. In this installation Bodemer "draws" with liquid or solid material on sixty-four 12-by-18-inch white boards.

Half incorporate stunning brooches fashioned from clustered semiprecious stones, found objects, leather, and coiled strands of pearls bound by raffia or wool. An inherent rawness, drawn from the memory of her grandfather's ring wrapped in yarn and worn of her grandmother, dominates. Sparkling stones offset bleached driftwood. A brooch with smoky quartz juxtaposes nature and industry through metal framework and wool.

Merged in a grid along the gallery's second-story catwalk, Bodemer's pieces evoke diverse response. From the lower gallery floor, the installation looks like a quilt or abstract art series. The sporadic placement of brooches on the boards lends itself to a musical store, imagery inspired by the music of John Cage. Reflective and spontaneous, the work hides and reveals relationship that, as with issues in life, must be contemplated and adressed.

As still lives in 3-D, the installations bulge with ornamentation. Whether chaotic or ordered, asymmetrical or grid, they bridge the gap between "art" and "wearable art." Poised as supplicants, wondering, "Will she pick me ?" the brooches await being chosen for the dance. When picked, each piece has its umbilical cord cut. It may leave the family, but as in reality, the connections remain in memories.

For Bodemr and Phillips, that is enough. As sophisticated artists whose cross fertilization has yielded a fluid realm, their sculpture and jewelry have married, yielding an unwritten language that satisfies whether stuck on the wall, on the body, or in the mind.

Judy Wagonfeld is a freelance writer who lives in Seattle, Washington.