Beyond Borders Experimentation and Innovation in Enameling

I had an opportunity recently to spend a weekend in the California bay area, which afforded me the chance to see “Beyond Borders Experimentation and Innovation in Enameling” at the Richmond Art Center in Richmond, California.

The show did not disappoint.  The juxtaposition of metal and glass is always alluring, and this is an especially attractive show. Beauty is a useful but underrated value; a gorgeous but challenging piece seduces its viewers into spending more time with a work that they might otherwise dismiss with a glance. One of the nicest aspects of an enamel show is that no matter how challenging the work is most, if not all, of it is quite beautiful.  Thus the pieces at the Richmond Art Center command attention while they invite the viewer to reassess their notion of what is glass on metal.

The most commanding piece is Gabrielle S. Castonguay’s Corset – Le Lac, a full sized corset made from enameled copper panels and dimensional enameled flowers.  The outside of the corset featured a flock of red birds on a bright blue and green background.  Inside the colors were muted and featured a lengthy message in French. The tag mentioned that the corset was wearable, perhaps the only quibble I might have with the exhibit is that there were no photos or film of the piece in use.

Another piece I quite liked was Dianne Reilly’s whisper, an angle raised silver vessel covered with enamel.  The surface, both inside and out, looked like a glossy translucent shell which, when combines with Ms. Reilly’s inventive use of cat whiskers, resulted in a piece that transcended the natural and manmade.

The show at Richmond Art Center features a nice overview of contemporary enamel: jewelry, wall pieces and vessels were all represented with several striking examples in each category. It is a must see for fans of glass on metal.

Beyond Borders Experimentation and Innovation in Enameling” will be at the Richmond Art Center from Sept 15 – Nov 9, 2012.