Uneasy Beauty: Discomfort in Contemporary Adornment at the Fuller Craft Museum

Uneasy Beauty: Discomfort in Contemporary Adornment at the Fuller Craft Museum – Guest Post by Artist Harriete Estel Berman

Wearable art often shackles itself with the overly constraining condition to be easily wearable. This implicit limitation is tossed aside in an extraordinary exhibition at the Fuller Craft Museum titled “Uneasy Beauty: Discomfort in Contemporary Adornment.” Curator Suzanne Ramljak selected a diverse group of work largely from the art jewelry field with a heightened emphasis on the “art”.  Every piece was obviously selected with great insight.

Throughout the exhibition, the intersection of adornment/jewelry/clothing stepped up to the challenge of raising thought-provoking, even inspiring topics, all while expressing sensitive aspects of beauty.

Bras are generally considered de-rigueur undergarments in western society, but they are no protection from the assault of breast cancer. This is where the bras of Mimi Smith examine wearability in a whole new way. The Protector Against Illness bra series includes Maximum Strength vitamins, Tamoxifen, and pink fabric ribbons.  Wearing this bra would be pointless, but displayed on the wall, it seduces us by its beauty, and is ultimately disquieting in revealing our vulnerability to cancer.

Can a person wear a 13-pound breastplate of gun triggers, gun bolts, gun barrels, and brass shells as a defense again gun violence? Bally reconstructs the components of guns while confronting our vulnerability to the random acts of gun violence in our society. What is wearable to protect us from bullets? Suits of armor were considered wearable battle until guns could pierce the steel. What will protect us?   Image to the left [ Brave 4: Breast Plate, 2013 Gun triggers, gun bolts, and gun barrels, brass shells, stainless cord, 925 silver 26” x 11 ½” x 2”]

The common shirt collar has morphed through the history of clothing from white lace, starched linen, to starched shirts. In “Uneasy Beauty” we get to examine our modern definitions of white collars and moneyed Corporate Collars, through to worn out collars as Momento Mori.  Daniel Joacz.Gigantic formal collars in plastic are ready to wear and promising to elevate the personage with a unique identity.

When Suzanne Ramljak invited me to be part of this exhibition, it was an invitation to push myself into new territory. Having made jewelry from recycled plastic trash for years, I wanted to expand dramatically to highlight the enormous problem of plastic waste accumulating in our rivers, oceans, and communities.  This was an opportunity to make a fashion accessory that might redefine expectations.  The overwhelming length and size of this boa is intended to stress the excesses of plastic waste as uncomfortable, restrictive, and strangling, the same way that marine fish and wild life are impaired by plastic waste.

Model wearing a 26-foot long boa necklace of recycled black plastic by Harriete Estel Berman.

Accessories are not always easy to wear, but they can heighten and enhance individual expression. By exploring or extending the meaning of wearable, this exhibition of adornment can present issues and underscore themes full of “Uneasy Beauty.” Don’t miss this show (through April 21)  at the Fuller Craft Museum. It will change your perceptions of wearable art forever.

Check out this post about “Uneasy Beauty” at the Fuller Craft Museum for more images and insight.
Uneasy Beauty – Original, Personal, and Provocative

Harriete Estel Berman uses post consumer, recycled materials to construct artwork ranging from jewelry, Judaica, sculptures and installations of social commentary. Her work is included in the permanent collections of 16 museums and  featured in over 38 books.  Berman is the author of the Professional Guidelines and ASK Harriete offering professional development advice and information to the arts and crafts community.