Another element of the California Design photos has to do with people. In the 1960s and 1970s artists such as Arline Fisch were working with large scale jewelry objects made to be worn on the body. Although conventionally-scaled jewelry—rings, bracelets and necklaces—were often photographed as isolated objects or in groups for the California Design catalogues, larger body ornaments were worn by models. It was not a look that most people could pull off. While these images are absolutely tame by current art standards, at most “racy” or “risqué,” they do contain an element of sexuality. This forthright sensuality is a basic part of the jewelry that emerged in the 1960s era of social tumult as an important part of American contemporary craft. But sex is just part of what comes through in the images.
The unusually large scale of the jewelry and the women’s faces, their body language, hair and makeup, provide the work with a context much like the landscape of California does for some of the other objects. To me, the photos capture a story of people who boldly engaged the changing times with exuberant creative spirit.
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