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Fluid Movement: Body/Motion

Interview with Elizabeth Essner

Jewelry moves. Its enamoring effect is realized through its collaboration with the body. Responsive movement serves as the point of departure for Body / Motion, an exhibition that explores kinetic jewelry through two artists, the emerging Japanese jeweler itoaya and the American sculptor George Rickey. Rickey’s work has served as a key source of inspiration for itoaya, and this exhibition will trace this inspiration over time and place, addressing the kinetic possibilities for jewelry on and off the body.

Lauren Eckert

How did you develop the idea of exhibiting George Rickey’s jewelry?

Elizabeth Essner

Body / Motion actually started with itoaya! I had not been able to see her work in person because she is based in Thailand, but thanks to the internet I was captivated. She makes jewelry that you can wear on your shoulders or around your head, and they dance around you, creating this little bubble of dancing sequins. I started reading about her work and realized how inspired she was by twentieth -century kinetic sculptors: Alexander Calder, Tim Prentice, and, of course, George Rickey. This led me to George Rickey’s jewelry. He made very little throughout his career, primarily as gifts, often for his wife, Edith. The works explored the idea of adornment and the body as a source of motion. It was this direct conversation around sculpture, jewelry, and movement that I found compelling and I dreamed of showing them together.

Are you also going to be showing George Rickey’s sculptures, or only the jewelry pieces he made for his wife?

It will just be jewelry. There will be three pieces that express three different sculptural concerns. One is Space Churn (1956), which is a gyroscopic, enameled hairpin he made for Edith. Then another hairpin, Rotors (1992), relates to his sculptural works, in which multi-finned elements turn on a central axis. The final piece is Two Lines Up (1967), a pair of double blade earrings. Each pivots independently on a fulcrum with their movements fueled by the body.

"fu-ka" by itoaya

How will they be presented? Are they going to be moving during the show?

itoaya’s work is very much available for trying on! itoaya has a modularly constructed piece, fu-ka, that I think we will try to change up throughout the show.It is meant to be worn differently every day, based on one’s mood. Its intricate parts can be constructed and reconstructed depending on how one feels or wants to feel each day. Her work is derived from the external expression of emotions. There will be a series, waku waku, that begins with a brooch worn near the heart. Each piece gets larger, from head pieces to finally a shoulder piece that radiates out around the body like ripples on an emotional pond.

Why is it important to show kinetic jewelry to the world?

It’s fascinating! Kinetic jewelry is captivating because it makes explicit some of the things that are embodied in jewelry. Its movement reinforces the connection between the body and jewelry. These two artists demonstrate a conceptual arc within kinetic jewelry: one has been inspired by the other, but in a different time and place.

"fu-ka" by itoaya
"fu-ka" by itoaya

Rickey passed away in 2002. How did you go about coordinating these pieces for the show?

I worked with Rickey’s Estate, who very generously loaned them with the understanding that this exhibition would express the influence of kinetic principles across disciplines. There are so few of these pieces that it is an absolute honor to be able to share them with the public during NYCJW. Jewelry provides incredible meaning to people’s lives, and I think that NYCJW explores the diverse ways that jewelry affects us. I hope that Body / Motion is one more part of this great mix!

This article is published in the 2019 New York City Jewelry Week Paper, the result of a collaboration between Current Obsession and NYCJW. Fluid Movement features a selection of NYCJW events that we can’t wait to see!

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