Organic refinement: Shank's "poetry of the actual"
The truth is I fall in love on a daily basis. A color may catch my eye (fall is particularly dangerous for me). Or the way a shadow drifts across a wall. Or the inward curl of a dried-up leaf. Whatever the prompt, my heart suddenly leaps into anguished ecstasy over a brush with fleeting beauty. Many friends roll their eyes when I gush over the blue-green sheen of a fly that’s landed on my water glass.
But I know Kristina Glick Shank would understand. In her statement accompanying “How I Walk,” Shank’s McGuffey Art Center exhibition of fine art jewelry, small enamel abstracts, and g©lee prints, she writes, “Beautiful things have always affected my life, and I believe beauty is a powerful force in the world.”
Encounters with nature are a reservoir of inspiration and ideas for Shank’s exquisitely crafted work. Abstract branches extend across enamel surfaces that shift with colors drawn from an autumn day. Elsewhere, the lunar surface–milky white with faint green mottling–underlies a series of 16 round pendants entitled “Imagination Moon.” And in the McGuffey foyer, four stunning necklaces incorporate actual dried magnolia scales.
Particularly in her jewelry, Shank generates visual energy by playing with contrasts. She mixes symmetry and asymmetry, concave and convex surfaces, accretive shapes with pierced holes, and highly refined craftsmanship with organic shapes formed either naturally or by electrochemical reactions.
For instance, in one pendant in the “Infinity’s Shadow” series, a rim of oxidized electroform copper surrounds a perfectly round dome of glistening, carmine enamel, Shank has manipulated the copper to mimic the beauty of corrosion, extending metallic bits and blooms seemingly haphazardly onto the surface of the enamel.
This innovative approach to materials and composition runs throughout “How I Walk,” but nowhere is it clearer than in Shank’s magnolia-scale necklaces. In each, coppery leaves, revealing silvery undersides, radiate in a circle interspersed with pearls, tiny snail shells (the kind commonly found Virginia creeks), or beautifully set stones. Shank meticulously attends to every detail. Especially noteworthy is “Memory’s Pieces: Arboreal Shores,” which features a graceful, sculptural assemblage composed of an enamel square, a shell fragment, two snails impaled on curving copper spits, and a single, dangling, pearl-studded magnolia scale.
In her statement, Shank says she aspires to create “a poetry of the actual.” Her material lyricism is like a siren’s song. Its power is compelling, and I swoon yet again.
Kristina Glick Shank’s exhibition, “How I Walk,” is on view at the McGuffey Art Center through November 2. 201 Second St. NW. 295-7973.