The creative process on display

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by Daniel Wirtheim

Through a series of photographs, Marina Shaltout smashes Jurassic Park with a hammer, assembling the tape into a ball and fixing it to a steel necklace. In her artist statement, Shaltout writes that she has been destroying objects “in order to remove their historical connotations and provide them with new potential.”

Artists featured in Delurk Gallery’s exhibition Create : Adorn exhibit their work along with the process of making each piece, so that the story is just as important as the finished product.

Most artists tell the story of their work with photography, taking photos of early structural sketches and raw materials. In some cases, the photographs feature carefully arranged parts that seem too clean, almost contrived — as if the artist knew we would be watching. The more remarkable process diaries are for the Victorian-styled lockets and necklaces, or the modernist sculptures. The outlines are scribbled equations on graph paper with angular measurements displaying enough gadgetry to startle the most dedicated steampunks right out of their goggles.

The simple beauty of Annie Grimes Williams’ necklace, a heap of leaf-shaped copper enamel, betrays the intense craftsmanship behind her work. The process sketches are detailed, featuring three-dimensional renderings of copper leaves measured and subscribed to acute analysis. The piece itself is uncomplicated, almost homely.

Motoko Furuhashi, whose materials included road segments, broken side mirrors and car paint, told the story of her contemporary sculptures through a series of photographs from junkyards and dilapidated buildings. Her sculptures, which look like torture devices, get a much-needed redemption by means of precise compositional balance.

Furuhashi’s process photos of people walking among trash heaps and hands holding wire cutters incite a narrative more interesting than the piece itself. With little explanation, they set the stage for the viewer’s own imaginative journey through an apocalyptic city.

Luke Ivy Price’s bracelet, which he titled Bisect Bracelet, uses a mixture of polymer plastics and manmade stones to achieve its contemporary aesthetic. There’s a playful shade of blue along with a translucent orange band. Two pink gemstones give the bracelet a look that could be either kitsch or alien technology. Bisect Bracelet looks like something that might have fallen from the P-Funk Mothership.

It’s displayed delicately among Price’s process work, which to the untrained eye looks like undecipherable math equations. Bisect Bracelet is best understood as a whole — along with the drafted versions — to understand.

Anna Johnson’s Syriacus Brooch, made from grossular garnet, rainbow moonstone, bat skull, fine silver, sterling silver, ancient bronze, hibiscus pod and stainless steel is easily most delicately crafted and balanced piece throughout the exhibit.

The skull, less fearsome than cute, sits among a delicately arranged nest of items that might have been picked from a meadow in Montana. Her style is not new, but earnest.

Johnson’s process photos show a startling image of a mossy forest path covered in hibiscus flowers. What could easily be overlooked as an Urban Outfitters accessory is given a new perspective: the artist as forager. Johnson’s work is holistic and lively. It’s a journey through death, striving for balance in the meadow’s ecosystem.

Jurassic Park as a fashion accessory. (Daniel Wirtheim)
Jurassic Park as a fashion accessory. (Daniel Wirtheim)

Destructed Jurassic Park VHS Necklace by Marina Shaltout stands out like a harmonica player at a classical music convention. It’s a silly necklace, a jumble of black VHS tape attached to a cheap steel chain. Only by means of process and association can the most pretentious piece of work in the gallery become the most captivating.

Destructed Jurassic Park VHS Necklace echoes the frustration of a generation grown up on Steven Spielberg franchises that have since been sucked dry by Hollywood execs. It assumes the same sense of ironic hipster humor that made collecting Jerry Maguire VHS tapes a cultural phenomena, but somehow gets to the punch line with more finesse and sense of endearment, so much so that the $180 price tag almost seems reasonable.

Perhaps it’s not unlike a headhunter who gains power through the shrunken skulls of his enemies that Destructed Jurassic Park VHS Necklace gives Shaltout a sense of agency and power. It’s a bold statement, ambiguous, and it underscores beauty of having an artist’s process exhibited along with her work.

Create : Adorn runs to Aug. 1 at Delurk Gallery in Winston-Salem.

  • Andrea Kennington

    You left out Chuck Kennington