Twisted Found Materials Become Mill Rats, Warring Teacups and Murderous Guns in Contemporary Craft Show

By Thomas, M. | Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA), October 14, 2018 | Go to article overview

Twisted Found Materials Become Mill Rats, Warring Teacups and Murderous Guns in Contemporary Craft Show


Thomas, M., Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)


The following CORRECTION/CLARIFICATION appeared on October 14, 2018. A woman and her son are shown in a photo accompanying a story this Sunday about the Contemporary Craft exhibition"Transformation 10: Contemporary Works in Found Materials." The gender of the child is incorrect in the caption.

On Jan. 1, 2017, there were 62 fatal gun incidents in the U.S. that resulted in 73 deaths.

Australian artist Melissa Cameron, who until recently lived in Seattle, was horrified by mass shootings reported by the media but also concerned that so little coverage is given every day to gun violence. That was the inspiration for "1.1.2017," a large-scale jewelry work that represents all the incidents that happened on that day.

The work earned her the 2017 Elizabeth R. Raphael Founder's Prize conferred by Contemporary Craft in the Strip District. The juried biennial award honors the woman who in 1971 founded the venue for contemporary art formed of craft materials. The prize includes $5,000 cash, an exhibition and a catalog.

Ms. Cameron, who describes herself as a "research jeweler," searched the online Gun Violence Archive for details including locations and types of guns used. She then collected metal, plastic, fabric or paper containers from each location and cut a shape of the weapon out of each. These gun "portraits," placed on chains so that they may be worn, are exhibited with the altered containers.

The project follows others related to the 2012 Sandy Hook shootings and the "Escalation Series," which the artist describes on her website as "a series of pieces that used the tools of war to make a statement about humanity's continuing poor relationship with itself."

She said that information is readily available on who was killed in a shooting, when and where. "What's becoming clear is that there is no focus put on the gun responsible, nor its manufacturer."

Her impetus, she wrote when she started the project, was to identify the makes and models of guns used on Jan. 1, 2017. "And when I have a picture of those weapons, I'm going to make a wearable piece of jewelry that incorporates every [expletive] one of them."

Her installation is the focal point of the resultant exhibition, "Transformation 10: Contemporary Works in Found Materials," which includes 10 additional works by Ms. Cameron and a work by each of the 26 national and international competition finalists.

"Transformation" is a series that features, in rotation, the craft media glass, wood, metal, clay and found materials. The range of work submitted is vast, and its generally meticulous construction reflects craft sensibilities. Detail frequently surprises, as in the many jewelry entries.

Arturo Alonzo Sandoval's wall-sized "Pattern Fusion No. 18: Motherboard" appears back-lit from afar but gets its glow from materials like auto industry Mylar and holographic and diachroic tapes interspersed with rows of microfilm and film. …

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