Since the Inauguration, the political situation seems to turn every day a bit sideways or upside down. After the Women's March, I felt paralyzed. Truth, which I thought was an absolute concept with a clear definition, was being repeatedly perverted, dismissed as fake, and replaced by fabricated alternative facts.
Then I realized that a piece that I had worked on several years ago had more resonance than ever. It was inspired by a fruit crate label (from around 1930) that signified quality. The brand name was "TRUTH".
Putting everything aside, I started fabricating several companion pieces: ALTERNATIVE FACTS, Circular Logic, and Web of Lies -- all as bracelets to be juxtaposed with TRUTH.
Creating tangible artworks with symbolic meaning helped me express my perspectives about the current political mess. But as I sat at my bench spending all my free time on political work to vent my frustration, I wondered why I was dedicating so much time and effort to fabricating TRUTH instead of my other projects or just having a good time.
Would anyone ever get to see these pieces beyond the lone page on my website?
To my amazement, my political protest jewelry was shared with a larger audience on the political pages of CNN. YEP! CNN. CNN included my work in an article, "How artists are marking Trump's 100th day in office" and it was posted last weekend written by Shachar Peled, CNN.
CNN actually found my work on the local San Francisco station, KQED, arts series, "First 100 Days: Art in the Age of Trump" where there was an excellent feature article by Cleo Noveno, Fabricating ‘Truth,’ One Tin Can Bracelet at a Time.
In preparation for my interview with Cleo Noveno, I practiced with my husband to articulate the ideas behind this work. It is one thing as an artist to make something based on intuition, but it is another skill entirely to be able to articulate the ideas to a different audience using words. New work always takes me weeks to months to verbalize and I had one day to figure this out.
Why jewelry inside TRUTH?
Why jewelry to articulate political issues?
It was then that I started thinking about historical jewelry and metalwork that has expressed powerful and important political and patriotic ideas throughout our nation's past. There are many examples.
The most famous American example of metalwork expressing a political and even patriotic idea is the Sons of Liberty Bowl, which is more commonly referred to as a "Revere Bowl." This silver bowl was fabricated by the famous Paul Revere prior to the American Revolution. It was commissioned by fifteen members of the Sons of Liberty and "raised" by hand (a metalsmithing term for the fabrication of the bowl in metal) by Paul Revere in a patriotic fervor. It was then engraved by hand with the names of the members of this secret political group. Engraved deeply, it represented a pact, a resolution.
These brave patriots literally engraved their names in history. "The Liberty Bowl honored ninety-two members of the Massachusetts House of Representatives who refused to rescind a letter sent throughout the colonies protesting the Townshend Acts (1767), which taxed tea, paper, glass, and other commodities imported from England. This act of civil disobedience by the “Glorious Ninety-Two” was a major step leading to the American Revolution."
But take special note of their engraved pledge at the bottom, it says, "Voted - Not to Rescind."
There is plenty of additional text engraved on the bowl including the provenance of the bowl. It is worth taking a look at the many images and information on the website of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.
Metal, work hardened, fabricated with sweat, and engraved permanently with political meaning, the "Sons of Liberty" bowl is described as one of three most important objects in the United States of America. This bowl stands with the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution.
Throughout world history, there are many examples of jewelry reflecting political sentiments.
As Prussia fought wars with Napolean, the government asked its patriotic citizens to give their gold jewelry to the government to fund the war efforts. In return, they were given this finely made iron jewelry.
At a fraction of the intrinsic value, it had another value instead. Imagine giving up your gold jewelry for this iron replacement, but wearing this jewelry must have been a visible symbol of your patriotism in that time.
While researching for other historical political jewelry, I found this brooch designed by painter, Sylvia Pankhurst around 1900. Sylvia's artwork and imagery gave the Suffragette Movement, and more specifically, "the Women's Social and Political Union, its coherent visual identity."
This Holloway Brooch (left) was presented (after imprisonment) to ex-suffragette prisoners at a mass demonstration at the Albert Hall on 29 April 1909."
Fabricated in silver it represents the portcullis symbol of the House of Commons in London, including the gate and hanging chains in silver. Superimposed on top was a broad arrow in green, white and purple enamel. The three colors green, white, and violet were symbolic for the slogan "Give Women the Vote.
Political activism for women's right to vote was a hard won battle we still seem to be fighting more than 100 years later. I appreciate the parallel to the political activism and symbolism of the Suffragette jewelry and the parallels to what is happening in politics. You may enjoy reading more about the Suffragette movement.
For wealthy women supporting the Suffragette Movement fine jewelry was also sold. This brooch (right) was shown in the Madeline Albright book and exhibition "Read My Pins." The first letter of each color Green - White - Violet were translated into gemstones and pearls. More information about Suffragette Jewelry.
Moving into the 20th century, there are examples of patriotic jewelry like this V for victory pin. (It looks a little odd, but the plastic has yellowed giving all the colors including the white and blue a soft yellowish cast.)
These examples only begin to touch on the idea of metal work and jewelry with a political message. There are more...
The recent exhibitions and catalog about gun violence Imagine: Peace Now includes a wide selection of metal work with a political statement that also runs counter to the right wing agenda. 90 decommissioned gun are transformed into art objects.
Organized by Boris Bally it sends a visual message about the impact of gun violence.
If you think artists have something to say in this political climate, say something.
One way is to VOTE for this show on USA today.
Vote here to support the next exhibition venue in a competition sponsored by USAToday. (scroll down a little for the "VOTE" text.)
For all the artists and makers reading this post I want us to remember and hold close to our hearts, that a visual image carries the weight of words. A visual image can represent or unify a vision more readily than a speech. This is why political marches include signs. Our work has something to say, and others of like mind would like to see it and share it with an even larger audience. RESIST!
Send me an image of your political work.
Leave me a comment for how to get in touch, I will reply, and then you can send an image of your political work.
Email me directly by clicking on the envelope below my profile photo in the left column.
I will add images to this post. I am thinking about writing an article.
Where is a show about the politics of our time?