Jo Lauria is an independent curator and an art and design historian, with a degree in art history from Yale University and in studio art from Otis College of Art and Design. She was decorative arts curator at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA), specializing in modern and contemporary decorative arts, craft and design. She has published extensively, organized numerous exhibitions and produced and directed multimedia presentations and documentary films.
An enthusiastic group of AJF members participated in our trip to Southern California in October 2006. Like all of our tours, these four days were filled with visits to artist's studios, museums, galleries and even a private collection. And, as past trips have set the bar high for offering excellent cuisine and ambiance, San Diego and Los Angeles restaurants rose to the challenge and provided our members with a delightful and delectable array of fine dining experiences.
In San Diego, Helen Shirk and Sondra Sherman, both metalsmiths and professors at San Diego State University, invited us to hear several of their students speak about the work they had on display in the art gallery. We were all delighted by the freshness, daring and significance of these pieces and felt that these young artists would assure a bright future for the field of art jewelry. Graduate student David Clemons walked us through his thesis show, explaining the compelling concepts at the core of his complex, beautifully crafted metal objects and jewelry.
It seemed we went from one high point to the next: a private reception at Taboo Studio whetted our appetites for a visit to the home and studio of Arline Fisch. We were all in awe and left speechless by Arline’s presentation. Her 'show and tell' included works spanning four decades and it was a great learning experience to hear Arline’s overview of her career as a jeweler and educator, and to be presented with the opportunity not only to see, but also to handle, her intricately fabricated jewelry pieces.
The San Diego tour ended with a flourish as we enjoyed a private tour of the exhibition Jewelry of Five Continents at the Mingei Museum, led by the museum’s director Rob Sidner. It was obvious from the magnificently scaled neck torques, belts, anklets, bracelets and headdresses from China, Afghanistan and Morocco that Americans are far less adorned than people of Asian and African cultures.
Further north, another fabulous museum experience awaited us at the Long Beach Museum of Art. After a private lunch in the museum’s 'ocean gallery' overlooking the Pacific, museum director Hal Nelson showed us several important modernist jewelry pieces by sculptor Claire Falkenstein. And to commemorate the event, each participant received a museum catalog of Falkenstein’s jewelry. Moving from the historical to the contemporary, we visited the studios of Kristin Beeler (Associate Professor of Jewelry & Metalwork, Long Beach City College) and Marianne Hunter, a self-taught enamellist and metalsmith extraordinaire. Each artist had a rich collection of work to show us and it was enlightening to hear their inspirations and motivations for creating the pieces and to learn some of their fabrication techniques.
Ditto for the artists who presented the following day. After we enjoyed a lovely brunch hosted by FreeHand Gallery owner Carol Sauvion, four of the jewelers FreeHand represents – Christina Smith, Karen McCreary, Sue Anne Dorman and Rachel Gehlhar – discussed their work on view at the gallery. Pulling out all the stops, we ogled and fondled more jewelry later that afternoon at the downtown studio of metalsmith Valerie Mitchell, at the home of a private collector who passed around pieces from her collection of tribal African, Native American and contemporary jewelry and at the 'hands-on' visit to Lisa Berman’s Sculpture to Wear Gallery, which capped off the day.
And, befitting for a group awash in jewelry, our guest speaker and trip participant, Nancy Worden, gave a rousing and informative presentation on the 'cleaning and maintenance of art jewelry' and provided starter cleaning kits for each member. We all promised Nancy that we would rid ourselves of tarnish when we returned home.
As the Bard would say, 'All’s well that ends well,' an apt statement for our group who ended their SoCal trip with a tour of the newly reopened Getty Villa in Malibu. The Gettys' antiquities and the ocean-villa setting offered an unparalleled experience and a glorious finale for our AJF trip participants.