An exhibition running at the Bellevue Arts Museum through June 17 is a comprehensive study of Israeli contemporary jewelry, with a focus on the careers of four of the nation’s leading women jewelers.
Titled “Women’s Tales: Four Leading Israeli Jewelers,” the exhibition features 127 pieces designed by Bianca Eshel-Gershuni, Vered Kaminski, Esther Knobel, and Deganit Stern Schocken. The showing of the pieces in Bellevue is one of only three scheduled exhibitions of these artists in the United States.
All four artists learned their craft in Europe. Each looked to other types of European contemporary jewelry, which focuses on non-precious metals, in crafting a unique Israeli identity. With each piece being personal and seemingly autobiographical, reflecting individuality and womanhood, each brings the common experiences of being wives and mothers living in Israel and being molded by its culture.
Each artist has crafted pieces that reach out to particular themes.
Eshel-Gershuni’s works portray her feelings of being a victim of lost love and war. Kaminski creates works that speak to the geography and multiculturalism of Jerusalem. Knobel uses found objects in innovative creations that reference her family and daily life in Israel. Schocken investigates the relationship of jewelry to the body itself while showing the influence of her passion for urban architecture, particularly the modernist buildings of Tel Aviv.
According to Michael Monroe, executive director and chief curator of Bellevue Arts Museum, the exhibition is a step in the rapid progression of the institution building a reputation of becoming a leader in the showing of crafts and design arts. While most museums work three to five years in advance to book exhibitions, the Bellevue Arts Museum, recently reopened after it shut down and later reorganized, positioned itself rapidly to be selected as one of the tops on the North American leg of a world schedule of showings of the pieces.
“Not only has our museum, which only reopened a year-and-a-half ago, become a leader in crafts and design in the nation,” Monroe said, “we have become an important and complementary part of the Seattle art museum scene, establishing the museum as unique in a city with a vibrant arts community. That made a difference.”
According to Monroe, attendance has been excellent during the opening weeks of the show. He credits a not only a strong interest in the arts, but one particular factor with this specific show.
“Seattle has a ready audience of interested artists and academics as a result of the jewelry program at the University of Washington,” he said. “It is considered to be one of the best in the nation.”
This exhibition is organized by The Israel Museum, Jerusalem and the Racine Art Museum. The primary sponsor of the exhibition is the Association of Israel’s Decorative Arts. AIDA was founded by philanthropists Dale and Doug Anderson and Andrea and Charles Bronfman. Their intent was to foster the development of contemporary decorative artists from Israel by connecting them to an international audience of galleries, institutions, and collectors. The exhibition is dedicated to the memory of Andrea Bronfman.
The collection, which appeared at the Racine Art Museum in Wisconsin and the Houston Center for Contemporary Craft in Texas before coming to Bellevue, will move on later this spring to a European tour before ending at The Israel Museum in Jerusalem in 2010.
Along with the exhibition, the Bellevue Arts Museum is sponsoring a series of educational activities related to jewelry design and manufacture. Two of the three of the programs took place in March, but one, “Knitting + Persian & Open Maille Chains” is scheduled for April 21 and 22.
The two-day workshop will teach the Viking knitting technique to create a knitted wire tube using pure silver wire using minimal tools. The class will teach cutting the wire into jump-rings and then link it into Persian and Open Maille chains, which can then be fashioned into jewelry. Moderate patience and a touch of eye-hand coordination is recommended.
That class will run from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday and 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Sunday and will take place at the Bellevue Arts Museum, 510 Bellevue Way NE. The tuition is $110 dollars plus a $55 materials fee. A place can be reserved by calling 425-519-0770.