Taboo Studio, in San Diego's Mission Hills, is the city's primary fine jewelry gallery, displaying the work of craft artisans local and national. Small, cozy, and fielding several large narrow display cases which flank the gallery's walls, it is a venue eminently suitable for a substantial showing of art jewelry. The gallery has been going strong for twenty-six years under the auspices of its owners Jane Groover and Joanna Rhodes, who are jewelers themselves that regularly exhibit their own work nestled amongst that of their peers. In fact, Taboo Studio is a haven for local jewelers, several of whom work at the gallery, and a place for friends and acquaintances to lend a hand occasionally, serving as assistants for exhibition openings and the like.
The gallery itself, besides its tall impressive standing displays, also requires a visitor to cast a quick glance to the floor, which is papered over from end to end with Japanese newspapers and sealed; a functional side-effect of an upstairs apartment which occasionally leaks, requiring floor renovation. The staff of Taboo have accepted this in stride, and as handywomen and craftspeople taken it upon themselves to inflect a touch of the quixotic on their jewelry's abode.
Now, on to the exhibition! "Out of the Blue" takes two elements of nature near and dear to San Diego's heart; the sea and sky, and encourages its guest artisans to play around with the themes of the color blue, water and air, from literal to conceptual interpretations. The results are enticing, and regardless of divergent approaches manage to form a cohesive whole that is neither repetitive nor too disparate in fashion. The twelve participating invitational artists included:
Brooke Battles • Marilyn Brogan • Susan Chin • Petra Class • Jane Groover • Sydney Lynch • Wendy McAllister • Christina Seebold • Cindy Sumner • Myung Urso
Examining the show, one could find two or three essential similarities in approach to answering the exhibition's theme. One of these was focusing on gemstones, whether precious or semi-precious, to echo the exhibition's thematic color, usually embellished with silver or gold. Petra Class, a renowned lapidary artist and goldsmith, has recently been focusing on incorporating what could nearly be called obscenely large pieces of lapis lazuli in her distinctive gold frame enclosures. These pieces took a thin sheet of the semi-precious stone and rendered it as though it was a painting, glorifying the stone and inviting the viewer to thoroughly examine the irregularities and peculiarities of the material. Rather than being an accent and embellishment, the lapis lazuli becomes the focal point which the gold frame simply delineates for the eye. Of course, the deep cobalt blue color of the lapis was an apt match for the theme of the show.
Another avenue of expression was through different materials rendered in the appropriate hue. Wendy McAllister and Brooke Battles took their medium of choice, enamel, and brought forth deep navy blues in their work through this method. Battles in particular had several pieces I especially enjoyed, from her enameled storm clouds pendant with cartoonish lightning bolts emanating therefrom, to her small mask brooches which evoked for me a mixture of tribal art and muppet-like zaniness.
A handful of items in the exhibit gave the mere suggestion of sea or sky, rather than directly alluding to it through coloration. Cindy Sumner's pugnacious rings took scenic slices from imagery present on vintage tin containers and riveted them to silver or brass backings. Multi-layered, with black, white or wooden blobby shapes to create contrast, Sumner's pieces were a delicious insinuation of the quality of air and open space that was effective and subtle.
The light during the summer in San Diego casts a sublime effervescence in the evening hours, and against the backdrop of this enjoyable ambiance the reception took place. Drinks and snacks were spread upon the small table staged outside and manned (and womanned) by friends and staff of Taboo. Inside, guests and artists surveyed the loquacious ensemble and listened intently with eyes instead of ears. Not a few pieces were brought out for closer inspection, and the gentle murmuring of conversation that can be so pleasant permeated the air.
Not a few jewelry heavyweights came out to attend the show. Longtime jewelrymaking educator Arline Fisch, a retired professor of art at San Diego State University, among others, and a pioneer of woven metal textile wearables was present, as well as the contemporary jeweler Hiroko Sato-Pijanowski, whose work is now on view at the Donna Schneier exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.
I also had the pleasure of seeing an old friend of mine, Reba Engel, who while not officially participating in the show is a longtime exhibitor at Taboo Studio. Her jewelry has a particular zing to it, something tribal, something beach, perhaps Californian, that I covet. Anyways, it was nice to catch up.
I could go further into the evening's delight, but that's my personal story. Suffice to say, it was a pleasurable event, enticing to the senses, and companionable to the spirit. The show ends this July 3, 2014. I encourage you to go and see the exhibition yourself, and make an evening of it.
Location: Taboo Studio
1615½ W. LEWIS STREET SAN DIEGO, CA 92103