For this research project, we were asked to research allocated jewellery designers in-depth and create a piece inspired by their work and philosophies. I was given the multi-media and goldsmith artist Lauren Kalman.
Kalman was born in Cleveland Heights, and currently lives and teaches in Providence, Rhode Island. Her mother was a commercial photographer and her father, an industrial designer. Her parents are present in her work – as her objects for the body imply to ergonomics and industrial design.
Her Hard Wear series focuses on the struggle between the unrefined body and the desire for perfection. She believes gold symbolises beauty, purity and immortality because it is an expensive and valuable material. People have been wearing jewellery made of gold to emphasise these qualities and improve their desire for perfection. However, in contrast, Kalman makes the body look UNdesirable through applying gold to the body, highlighting disease and imperfections.
Kalman applies jewellery to the strangest of places, such as the inside corner of the eye, the inner ear and nostril. I believe through placing objects in these awkward places reveals hidden areas of the body. In addition, these jewels cause restriction and sometimes reactions. For instance, blocking one nostril through inserting jewellery makes it more difficult to breathe and the sprouting shape of the object must hurt and graze the nostril when you put it in. The Gold Duct piece, when place, causes you to cry because the gold is just about touching the eye itself and restricting you to blink, thus, drying the eye out.
Are these grillz as cool as pimped up rapper Flava Flav here? Or just gross? As you watch Kalman insert these gold veneers into her mouth, the effect is both intriguing yet repulsive as the veneers cause saliva to drip from her mouth. Imperfections begin to show. Thus, in the ‘Hard Wear’ series, Kalman is conveying the idea that beautiful and valuable materials such as gold and pearls can reveal undesirable qualities and imperfections on the body through distortion.
Blooms, Efflorescence, and Other Dermatological Embellishments 2009
In this series, pins are temporarily pierced into the skin to mimic infectious diseases. However, this temporary nature echoes the temporary visibility of diseases she portrays such as syphilis, warts, herpes, etc, which in time disappears from the skin’s surface, but sadly still lingers within the body. Her inspirations come from common images off the internet and medical resources, this is the reason for the compositions and close-up nature of Kalman’s images – trying to imitate photographs of medical infections.
I believe Kalman is emphasising that until the material of the infection is altered, grotesque becomes immediately beautiful. Even the colour of the embellishments, arrangement and monetary value convey these contrast because they are made of valuable materials, dotted evenly and balanced beautifully yet in the back of you mind you have got to remind yourself these are spots and disease. You may think a blistering rash is disgusting to look at, for example, but as soon as the glistening sores are replaced with lustrous pearls does it transform the appearance completely.
So yeah, from Kalman’s work I decided to take a similar approach but different theme and look at what food does to prevent certain diseases. In particular, I have focused on foods which actually look like the organ they help to protect.
For instance, a sliced carrot looks like the human eye and helps with the function of the eyes, improves vision and prevents infections such as cataracts.
Tomatoes have four chambers and is red just like the heart has four chambers. They can help with blood flow and prevent heart diseases such as coronary heart disease which is the narrowing of arteries.
But what I have taken interest in is the brain. Walnuts have gnarled folds just like the brain and are high in Omega 3 fatty acids which help with the development of the brain, thus, may assist in preventing dementia and brain aging.
Alzheimer’s disease is the most common cause of dementia which includes the loss of memory. It leads to the development of protein ‘plaques’ and ‘tangles’ in the brain, resulting in the death of brain cells. So far Scientists are not absolutely sure of what causes Alzheimer’s disease. It could be age, inheritance or genetic factors. No
one is sure.
I took inspiration from Alzheimer’s cells and tried developing veiny shapes and alien-like forms to convey inner body organs and cells. I liked the idea of something growing out of the body like roots of a tree, spindly wrapping tendrils to emphasise a feeling of growth and never letting go. Like Alzheimer’s, it worsens over time and once you have it, you have got it for time.
The cells under a micro-scope were beautiful to look at, yet transmitted a nasty disease. I carried out samples using resin, experimenting with different colours similar to that of Alzheimer’s cells. The colours, to me, looked ultraviolet, like they glowed. Thus, I sampled using bits of UV acrylic and bright pigments to achieve colours I was happy with to give the idea of nuclei and cell-like qualities.
Sensation in this project was important to me. The first thought that came into my head of a nasty growth was something sticky, fleshy, and when touched would remain on your hands as if it was trying to pass onto someone else. Trying to grow and spread. I immediately thought LATEX. It possessed these rubbery-like qualities which would be perfect for what I wanted to achieve. I experimented with colours but preferred the clear stuff as it seemed more cell-like to me.
I attached the resin bits to the latex and created vein-like patterns by cutting holes into the rubber. I experimented with burning to achieve dark crisp sticky edges. The reason why I darkened the latex was because it would create more of a contrast on the skin, but yet retained that transparent quality. The natural latex was too similar to the colour of the skin, it would not be seen in the photographs and would reflect light too much, thus my decision. In addition, the melted latex would stick and feel more repulsive when attached to the skin, when taken off it would leave oil residue on the skin which emphasises the idea of dormant disease.
This is my final piece. I am pleased with the sensation and idea of my piece, however, the colour is not fully to my liking. I tried to find a way to make the latex UV but the paint was expensive. Hopefully my piece conveys an impression of growth and spreading through the appearance of it placed on the body.