AJF asked this year’s five young 2016 Artist Award finalists to tell us a bit about their backgrounds and their thoughts on the future of the art jewelry field. Their work represents a group of outstanding pieces of contemporary jewelry. This is the second of five interviews.
For this, the 15th annual AJF Artist Award, the jurors were Philip Clarke of New Zealand, inaugural director of Objectspace; 2014 Artist Award winner Seulgi Kwon, from South Korea; and AJF board member and collector Susan Kempin, who is from the United States. The jurors met in December and selected the following five finalists for the 2016 AJF Artist Award: Lynn Batchelder, Seth Papac, Carina Shoshtary, Aric Verrastro, and Timothy Veske-McMahon. The choices were based on originality, depth of concept, and quality of craftsmanship. These artists were all under the age of 35 at the time of the application deadline.
There will be an exhibition of the five finalists’ work at Platina’s booth in the International Trade Fair hall in Munich, in the Frame area surrounding Schmuck.
Bonnie Levine: Congratulations on being one of the five finalists of the 2016 Artist Award competition—that’s quite an accomplishment! How did you become interested in jewelry, and what inspires your work?
Aric Verrastro: I was a well-rounded undergraduate student with no clear direction. I had taken almost every introductory fine art and design course offered at SUNY Buffalo Sate College. I was close to graduation and still had not found a medium I was really passionate about. Then I took a metals/jewelry course and I found a strong connection to this form of expression. The jewelry field allowed me to combine all the skills I developed in the other disciplines. My professor at the time, Stephen Saracino, said during an artist talk, “I make sculpture—it just so happens to have a hole in it for a bracelet,” which I found inspiring. He also said, “There is no difference between sculpture and craft—there’s only “well-crafted sculpture.”
My work is inspired by events in my life, which tend to be universal topics applicable to everyone. I always take the optimistic side to my approach in making the work. I think it is a lot harder to be optimistic than pessimistic.
What does being a finalist mean for you? Do you think it will influence you in any way?
Aric Verrastro: To be a finalist is an honor and validation of all the hard work I have put into making my work. It will only encourage me to work with the same vigilance and to create fresh original work.
Where do you think the art jewelry field is going?
Aric Verrastro: I honestly do not know. There are currently so many different approaches to art jewelry and I think all of them are valid and thrilling. It is like the silhouette of a tree, the trunk is tradition and the intersecting branches are the many contemporary, interdisciplinary, and highly conceptual avenues some artists are experimenting with. Will the field continue to expand away from tradition, revert back, or remain somewhere in between?
What excites you about the art jewelry field?
Aric Verrastro: The use of many different materials is saturating the field and the interesting concepts and forms created with these materials are stimulating. I am excited to be part of this expanding definition of jewelry. I like how art jewelry when worn has the potential to expose the public to this unique art form. A person becomes a walking display for the concept the artist is trying to get across. The level of intimacy you can have with jewelry is like no other form of art.
What frustrates you about it?
Aric Verrastro: The field of contemporary art jewelry does not need to fight for its relevancy as an art form. There is still too much conversation regarding the long-drawn-out conflict regarding fine art versus craft. We need more organizations like AJF to expose the field of art jewelry to a general audience.
What do you think your direction will be five years from now?
Aric Verrastro: I have no idea. I never want to become stagnant with the work I create. The hope is I will be creating something different, maybe sculpture, installation, or even painting still relating to the field of jewelry. This uncertainty is something I thrive on.
Thank you very much.