Rebecca Rose’s work with rings is so intricate I want to be shrunk down like Rick Moranis so I can see it better. Rebecca will be showing at Select Art Fair for Art Basel in December. Besides being a protector of salamanders, Rose employs a technique known as lost-wax casting, which is extremely dangerous! Check out her interview:
Tell us about yourself, how long have you been an artist?
One of my first memories is drawing pictures of castles with moats and droopy flowers while sneaking in episodes of Threes Company. Self-disciplined creative projects and artistic endeavors continued through high school. In college I graduated early with a fine arts degree, but after college I no longer had access to the casting equipment and torches I relied on so heavily to create my work, leaving me a lurch and unable to afford the expenses that come with a fresh grad building their studio. So I painted for a bit, the money from each painting that sold went towards getting back into my Sculpturings. As frustrating as that time was, it was worth it. I found my artistic voice, strengthened my determination to make my career happen, taught myself new processes, and learned how to be frugal and stretch my studio dime. All while building a name for myself and establishing my work as part of a new wave of art to collectors, gallerists, fans, and fellow artists.
In your Bio you state that you make a lot of your art from found objects, where do you find them? Why do you choose objects reminiscent of childhood? What is the narrative you seek to tell? How does it parallel or reflect your own life?
My work incorporates imported miniatures, organic materials, toys, building blocks, and pretty much any found object that burns. I most always alter and deface the found objects before kitbashing them. As far as their origins, the objects come from anywhere and everywhere, I’ve been known to dumpster dive in college, so no object is worthless in my eyes as long as it has an interesting texture, shape, or surface. Some are carefully collected during my travels to other countries, some are deliberately sought out and purchased online from Germany and Japan. Just the other day I picked something up from the parking lot, and after a bit of washing, it looked like a label from someone’s shoe or backpack.
I think objects of familiarity spark intimacy between the piece and viewer, and using childhood toys to convey adult views on social issues is a stark conceptual contrast. Which I feel creates a stronger and intellectually layered piece of art. We never really grow up; each of us are the same kids in the sandbox playing and exercising our imaginations, starting fistfights over the playground’s perceived best spot, burying each other in the sand long enough to ditch them before they get wise, or sneaking a kiss on the cheek sitting on the gritty, hot sand. We just traded in our jumpers for suits, our sand pails for briefcases, and our sandboxes for marketplaces. Sometimes that once loved childhood toy lost in a garbage heap or aged in an attic box can bring back priceless memories and emotions upon revisiting it in a contemplative way. Like that scene in “Amelie”.
My narrative varies from piece to piece, but overall it’s to shed light on the whimsical and the absurd we encounter daily. Laughter and love being the whimsical, money and politics being the absurd. Above all, each piece’s message has a positive, hopeful, existential, yet slightly sarcastic spin. I incorporate the injustices and social issues happening during this generation into my Sculpturings. I’m deeply involved in the LGBT community, awake to global ecological atrocities, and squint my eyes to uber large corporations, among other issues. Some of my work is lighter and inspired by pop culture movies, but most have a very distinct point of view and satirical narrative on observations I see. Each piece begins with a philosophy/way of life that describes a current event or social issue, and I pair it with words that contain the word “ring”, usually as a suffix.
How did you hear about kitbashing? Why is that your preferred method? What is it like working with silver? Have you used other metals? Why did you settle on using silver?
I heard about it from my friend Adam Roth, an LA artist that watched me carve waxes in a gallery window in Los Feliz. Before hearing the term, I solely used the word assemblage. Adam was pretty excited that my work was not only kitbashed, but then molded, waxed, and carved into again before casting. Kitbashing is like a 3 dimensional collage, I just finished writing an article about the kitbashing process in an upcoming issue of Art Jewelry Magazine set to go to print soon, keep your eyes peeled for it.
The act of turning the discarded lost object into a found repurposed object gives me weird existential jollies. The idea of taking materials like plastic or paper with debatable degrees of value and fragility, and turning them into materials like silver and bronze with higher value and strength weirdly fulfills me. In a strange way, I get to play the role of a mighty creator extending the lifespan of an object that could be easily destroyed otherwise, able to put forth an omnipotent decree made with the wave of my tools.
Working with plastic and wax is a great deal of fun for me, and it’s easy to get lost and zoned into the 3 dimensional minutia of my work. Working with silver is different though, silver is Heaven and Hell. It’s a beautiful material; shiny, clean, durable, and resilient. Yet, if my calculations are off, if the time length intervals of the kiln firing are incorrect, if the temperatures aren’t exact, if my measurements and mixing times are bad, if I’ve got air pockets or bubbles in my molds, if my metric and U.S. standard conversions are wrong -any degree of error- it can be a bear to deal with and highly time consuming to correct. In that case, I’d start over from the beginning.
I work with Bronze too, the limited edition Bronze Sculpturings are my equivalent to limited edition prints. In SAT terminology- Paintings : Limited Edition Prints :: Silver Sculpturings : Limited Edition Bronze Sculpturings. In college I also cast brass and copper, but both of those have a high oxidation and tarnish level, I’ve poured cast iron in a foundry before, but that’s a huge ordeal and requires an intense amount of heat to reach liquid state. I tend to work with clean metals, like sterling silver, bronze, and eventually I’ll offer a highly limited gold tier. I like to be choosy in my metals, after all I intend these pieces to last generations, and I want them to withstand the test of time and look fabulous doing so. I don’t ever foresee working with pewter or tin. Tin is dirty. Most people’s ph levels effect their ability to wear certain copper alloyed metals like tin or pewter.
So much time is involved with each piece I want my art to last as long as possible, for centuries long after I’m dust, and metal provides that assurance. Sterling silver also provides the assurance to myself and collectors, that the value is built in to the materials, and you will always get money out of it. The precious metals help guarantee collectors my pieces will naturally appreciate over time in conjunction with the precious metals market. Removing the guesswork and worry of investing releases the collector’s monetary focus on the work so more focus is placed on the piece’s theme, skill, compositions, form, and message itself.
What was your experience at NAU like? What did you learn about art? What did you learn about yourself while there for school? How are the two intertwined?
I elected to take a Metalsmithing class as part of my fine arts degree, and when I felt the block of wax in my hand, I was hooked. I loved the idea that wax became metal. Hard wax to liquid wax, liquid metal to hard metal, just by temperature. I took as many classes as possible and assisted my professor as his student supervisor, in that respect I received special training. I created my first Sculpturing in 1999 and remember my professor looking down at the ring I carved and asked, where did you get this idea? That’s when I knew I was on to something.
The equipment was fantastic, a true haven for casting, fabricating, and forging. It didn’t really sink in until after graduation that equipment access would be denied because I was no longer enrolled as a student. Most art grads don’t have the resources to set up shop a full casting shop in their studio, and most apartments don’t allow combustible oxy-acetylene tanks or torches on their patios. I didn’t have the means to continue casting so I stopped my art for a while. Not a pretty phrase, I felt dead and suppressed. I painted for a while, and had success showing, but it was always a matter of getting back to the wax and metal.
This punch of realism was absolutely necessary.
I needed to be denied the chance to create in order to heighten my desire to get back into it again, because I felt I was going against my nature by not doing it. I became anxious to build what I saw in my imagination all those years, richly fertile with new ideas. I taught myself to be resourceful, and work harder to make it happen, to set a higher pace for myself, turn up the treadmill so to speak. I also needed time to step away and forget some of what I was technically taught. Not that it was poor instruction, on the contrary, my professors were highly revered. I needed to forget some of what I was taught in order to allow me to teach myself new processes, unveil the meaning behind my work, and in turn find my unique artistic voice, and make it my own.
I began to think outside the box about my metalwork, throughout that 6 year hiatus, and started considering techniques and ideas away from the realm of conventional teaching. My second trip to Japan ignited the spark for sculpting again, I was in Hiroshima standing still and silent, and it suddenly became clear what direction I needed to take with my art. The flood gates broke open, sketches for new Sculpturings poured through me, notes, ideas, I was consumed with it.
Remembering my time in college, my drawing teacher at NAU showed me an issue of Juxtapoz magazine in fall of 1998. He was a younger, edgier Junior professor and the moment I saw it our eyes locked, like we both somehow knew the impact a magazine like this would have on the art world. In that first semester drawing class, that’s what I picked up most, despite the preconceived notion of a concrete art system set in place, there will always be an audience and market for new ideas, new movements, and new artists. It’s up to the individual artist to think and feel differently, coupled with personal determination and drive towards achievement.
During those quick 3 years of school, I taught myself to take on the largest ideas possible I could think of, create a giant show, and knock their socks off. Always give them something they’ve never seen before, never thought was possible, and damn hard to match. Take the bar and throw it up in the air while building a ladder high enough to catch it before it falls down.
What of yourself do you see in your art? What drew you to the media of casting, in particular, rings?
I’ve always been a whistleblower about glaringly unjust issues. In primary school, I rose a stank in our accelerated class during an unscheduled dissection of a salamander to retrieve the educator’s lost wedding ring. Don’t get me wrong, I’m in favor of planned dissection for educational purposes, but this event wasn’t the case. The teacher -convinced the salamander ate it- was ready to kill and slice open the living creature in front of the class. I -convinced the salamander couldn’t have swallowed it- proceeded to protest to the students, teachers, and principal during class that the salamander’s skin was translucent enough, if consumed, the ring would’ve been visible from the outside, and that the diameter of the ring was far larger than the diameter of the salamander’s body so it would’ve protruded to the touch or caused the skin to bellow out. The dissection happened anyway, and the ring was eventually found underneath the teacher’s desk. It’s odd reminiscing about this now that I’m older, that early experience of self discovery involved finding how to use my voice of reason concerning a ring. Funny how life takes you on 360`spins.
I didn’t fully understand starting out where my art would take me, nor comprehend as an early adult how far I would take my art, but I have a pretty solid understanding now. Like being handed jigsaw pieces without having an image to go by, over time when you have enough pieces in place, you get an understanding of the big picture. These interests, passions, elements, and materials of minutia have always been threaded into my being. Childhood toys, Legos, dollhouse bits, will always have a place in my work, the smaller the better and the stranger the better. Activism, rooting for the underdog, laughing at our accepted ways of the world, I know human social and political perfection doesn’t exist, so I’ll never be left without subject matter from which to draw inspiration.
Casting is extremely dangerous. It’s an adrenaline rush riding that fine line between uncertainty and suspense, fully knowing if one little mistake happens, the piece has to start all over from scratch. The angst ridden suspense is unbearable at times, but mostly I cast rings as a form of mobile sculpture. The ability to wear your art in public is incredibly unmatched. When I painted, I found it limiting to only describe what a piece looked like or show a picture, but when I wear a piece in person, the viewer can see it, touch it, and be effected by it instantaneously. Not only does it draw in complete strangers curious to discover what it is, but it widens the reach a body of art can have, building the audience so future work is instantly recognizable at first glance.
Wearing art is a great way to introduce it to the public, take for instance Shepard Fairey’s Obey Clothing line and Brian Viveros’ Viveros Brand Clothing line- they both are able to share their work with each person their art comes in contact with outside the confines of gallery walls. The people who may not go to galleries, fairs, or artwalks regularly, not as involved in the art scene, nor have their finger on the pulse of the latest artists and shows, may not get the chance to come across your work otherwise. Although they’re not immersed in the culture doesn’t mean they don’t care about it. On the contrary, I’ve found wearing my art strikes up conversation between complete strangers, the wearer and the observer, and sparks impromptu dialogues about the social message in question or about art itself, resulting in two strangers connecting out of the blue.
Collectors have told me that people remember them better when they wear a piece out than when they don’t. Art connects people, and I believe those random connections are beautiful and less likely to happen otherwise. The importance of sharing this form of public mobile art lies with viewers to engage and interact with the pieces, not only for those that wear and collect them, but also for those who see it on someone’s finger and is compelled to ask about it. I enjoy the idea of sculpture being so small and mobile that you can take it with you, and share it with others as it moves with it’s owner, bringing people together in a moments notice.
Where did you get the idea for Bridgism and Paperings? How do you see it working?
I’ve begun to document a movement related to the 3rd Wave/DIY movement called “Bridgism”. The term comes from the root word “bridge” because the crossover happening between craft and fine art is not just a one way street, what was missing was a way to bridge the two. I see established painters and fine artists crossing over to dabble in the applied arts and crafts too. But the term Bridgism also pays homage to Brigitte Martin, founder of crafthaus, an online arts community inspired by the Bauhaus movement of the 1930′s. Brigitte is also the mind behind “Humor in Craft”, a beautiful coffee table book profiling ceramicists, jewelers, glass blowers, and fiber artists who push their medium to an intellectual extreme in both execution and subject matter, in the most whimsical of ways.
Bridgism is reminiscent of the Victorian Arts and Crafts movement of the 1980’s, the Pasadena Arts and Crafts movement of the 1920’s, the German Bauhaus movement of the 1930’s, and the American Arts and Crafts movement during the 1960’s. The artists in this movement have the ability to change the mainstream collective view so jewelry, fiber art, design, paper art, craft, are more widely accepted as a conduit of fine art. Established fine artists are creating art jewelry as well, dispelling the myth that it’s below fine art. It may not fully be in the mainstream consciousness yet, but it’s been happening for years. Examples of Bridgism through Art Jewelry were evident at Design/Miami Basel this June, and sparked a Blouin Artinfo article entitled, “Jewelry Art Takes Pride of Place”. Elisabetta Cipriani Gallery regularly invites established fine artists to create small sculptural and wearable works, and artists like Anish Kapoor, Orly Genger, Gary Baseman, Audrey Kawasaki, etc have released wearable works recently.
It’s important to continue dialogue and bring awareness to this movement so artists in varying craft disciplines gain confidence in showing their work alongside paintings, prints, and sculpture. Magazine editors and I have talked about future articles on Bridgism to help clear up mainstream confusion about the craft and fine art and it’s is only the beginning. The Bridgism crossover currently in the worldwide art scene, is also inspiring collaborative shows to emerge. These shows pair fine artists with applied artists and partner to create an unorthodox mashup piece, like oil painting with thread or printmaking with metal.
At first, I thought Brigdism would apply only to jewelry, but now I see it having a larger impact as it’s applied to realms of design and fashion, because similar discussions are already happening within these fields. The Blouin Art Info article mentioned above and very the recent Artsy.net blog post “Sitting on Sculpture”, signify that the mainstream conscious has begun to shift, and all aspects of design are Bridging over to fine art. On a macro level of theory, Bridgism also spans between fine art, craft, art jewelry, design, fashion, etc. and through early documentation via articles and online research, these Bridgist patterns are being grouped together. Some art historians and theorists, who have noticed patterns emerging too, have begun discussing a collaboration on a book regarding the crossover of craft theory with fine art theory, and are eager to offer their viewpoints. It’s a growing movement, but one that definitely has lasting power thanks to the artists that continue to push the boundaries of craft materials and processes, whether it be paper, polymer clay, fiber, metal- you name it, it’s happening.
With the same approach of stickering the town and tagging walls, Paperings will randomly pop up and share the Bridgism movement to positively change the mainstream view that jewelry can be an accepted and valid conduit of fine art. Paperings are a free open edition of printed Sculpturings. Paperings are available online to download, print an image of a ring, cut out on the dotted line, fold, and wear for fun. Preprinted, precut, and signed paperings will also be freely available around cities in tangible form, placed on store mannequins free for the taking by people who stumble upon them, blindly gifted to global residencies through the mail, and given to live people who come in contact with them. Preprinted and precut paperings will be printed on recycled paper, with informative facts on Bridgism and art jewelry printed on the inside.
Eventually, Paperings will appear in global cities and major art events like Art Basel Miami Beach. The punch out and cut out ring idea will be a freely accessible idea for other artists to
adopt as well. Art jewelers are encouraged to follow suit and use the same idea and approach of Paperings, make foldout copies of their work, and send them out to the public in their region to showcasing their work and spreading the word. Paperings will integrate with social media platforms, offering the chance for wearers to universally connect and share pictures, tag the loactions were it was found, and learn about art jewelry as a fine art form, thus providing worldwide coverage of the Bridgism movement in realtime.
Do you see your work as jewelry? How would you describe the difference between jewelry and art? What would you describe the function of either? How do the uses of each differentiate? How do they overlap?
My work is named Sculpturings to give equal and due credit to sculpture and jewelry, not deeming it one genre more than the other. That’s how I hope people will respond to each piece, that the body of work bridges the gap between both genres. This approach serves a dual purpose: sculpture can be mobile instead of viewed as heavy and immovable, and jewelry can be a conduit of substance, meaning, and message.
Similarities are found in sculpture fabrication/foundry and jewelry metalsmithing/casting more than people give credit for, and yet such strict distinction exists between the two. For both cases in lost wax casting, whether for the ring on your finger or the statue on the steps of your local city hall, the piece starts with an idea that’s transformed from concept to reality out of wax or burnable objects. In both cases the original is plaster coated, kiln fired, and melted metal is poured into the negative space. Early on saw that sculpture and jewelry were the same, interchangeable, with exception to size. The only difference between the two is that one form of art is heavier, more apt to be immobile and decorative, and that the other form is smaller, and more apt to be mobile and functional. Both art and jewelry are ultimately reflections or ourselves and our interests.
Many of my approaches towards size, content, display, and prints (the bronze limited edition work) goes against most mainstream ideas about traditional jewelry and overlaps with fine art. The way I show my work is also unconventional in terms of jewelry, which are presented on sculpture pedestals similar to those in museums and galleries, as opposed to jewelry cases. The presentation and display evolved from a tiny, velvet lined box to a hand blown, museum quality glass cloche dome and base, elevating the piece with an armature to have it float in mid air, denying the weighty piece the gravity it desires. Magnifying glasses near the pieces not only help guests and collectors see the detail clearly, but makes the experience between the art and the viewer more interactive and intimate, much like a museum exhibition. My work also equates to two dimensional art, in that the unique sterling silver Sculpturing is like an original painting, as an edition of Bronze Sculpturings are to limited edition prints of the same painting.
A fine art collection is in some ways, is a very private thing, inside gallery walls or a private collector’s home. Of course a jewelry collection is private as well, usually under lock and key, but has the option to be public and worn outside, traveling with it’s owner almost taking on a life of it’s own.