One of the primary definitions of a bead emphasizes its use in adornment or an ornamental capacity. Contemporary artists who work with beads sometimes adhere to these parameters and sometimes challenge them. This exhibition, comprised of works from RAM’s collection, reveals the expansive potential of beads for structure as well as decoration in contemporary art jewelry and small-scale objects.
As shifting Native American beadwork practices have made clear, the materials used to form beads can change depending on geography, use, cultural and personal preference, and availability. Contemporary artists—many with multiple options available to them—make choices based on aesthetic, conceptual, practical, personal, and symbolic intent. For example, silversmith Jasper Nelson draws on generational Navajo family knowledge and interest to create beaded neckpieces with a minimalist aesthetic. Interested in highlighting the “foodstuffs of our communal desire,” Linda Dolack covers candy boxes, food containers, and grocery carts with glass beads as she ironically highlights mass consumption and production. Holly Anne Mitchell uses recycled newspaper to create beaded bracelets, brooches, necklaces, and earrings that speak to eco-friendly practices as well as challenge assumptions about which materials can be used for jewelry.
Drawn together by a common form, the works included in this exhibition reflect a variety of perspectives on materials, techniques, and wearability. In addition to addressing these formal qualities, the artists also explore a range of social and cultural themes including perceptions of race, material consumption, and excess.
Artists in the Exhibition
Garry Knox Bennett, Flora Book, David Chatt, Sharon Church, Linda Dolack, Kathleen Dustin, Christina Eustace, Linda Fifield, Valerie Hector, Tina Fung Holder, Tory Hughes, Jan Huling, Donna Kato, Jacqueline Irene Lillie, Karen Thuesen Massaro, James Minson, Holly Anne Mitchell, Marilyn Moore, Merrill Morrison, Jasper Nelson, Judy Onofrio, Angie Reano Owen, Susan Rezac, Axel Russmeyer, Melissa Schmidt, Joyce Scott, Mary Tingley, Pier Voulkos, Kathy Wegman, and Tom Wegman