Many “isms” point to some structural ideas behind this new series of work. Steve and I have long been fans of Cubism. This series is designed around the bold graphic elements of antique wooden block letters and a packet of letter stencils. While Cubists famously used letters in their paintings, there are a few earlier “isms” of interest in this body of work. Supermatism, Constructivism and Futurism utilize bold graphic building blocks as primary compositional elements. The Russian Futurists of 1912 “…found significance in the shape of letters, in the arrangement of text around the page, in the details of typography. They considered that there is not any substantial difference between words and material items, hence the poet should arrange words in his poems like the artist arranges colors and lines on his canvas.” The letters are stripped away of literary meaning in favor of pure visual design.
This brings to mind a memory of when I was a small child in 1st or 2nd grade when I spent an entire recess break playing with plastic letters. I recall being at my desk, completely absorbed in carefully selecting from a pile of letters. I was making grouping of these letters based on if their straight edges and curved edges. In my mind, the shapes gave them very distinct “personalities.” Because of these “personalities” I had assigned to them there were letters that got along well together and letters that did not. Forming words and spelling had no function in this play time. I remember a time when my teacher said to me at the end of one of these involved stories I had going on at my desk that “…maybe next time we could try spelling some words with the letters.” She completely missed the point. Couldn’t she see the elaborate system I had devised that made all of these letters get along so well?
Steve has always been the one to draw the initial ideas out. In a reversal of habits, I made the drawings for this new body of work. Much like I did as a child, I started these drawing by building from letter shapes based on how they might fit together. By doing this with stencils I could achieve a consistency of proportion and repeatable curves and lines. I am also working with Jennifer Glenn, a local Santa Fe metalsmith, on this series.
This series of brooches are not intended to be versions of Constructivism of 1920‘s. But a very direct relationship can be made. The “Proun” series (1923) by El Lissetsky illustrates a great example of something similar in my approach. In this series, Lissitzky was expanding on the typical 2D forms and shapes of Supermatism to include spatial elements, utilizing shifting axes and multiple perspectives. I find Lissitzky’s definition of the Proun series particularly relatable when he says, “(they are) the station where one changes from painting to architecture.” Although I had a recollection of seeing things like this from that period in art history I found this body of work after I had already done about 30 drawings for pins. My studio practice is such that I am always shifting between painter and jeweler. In this body of work I was making a conscious effort to bring my thinking as a painter into the dimensional world of the jewelry object.