The work of Emily Culver marks the first time this blog has featured jewelry, but of course, this is no ordinary jewelry. Culver’s practice explores jewelry, or perhaps more correctly, wearable artworks, without the mechanisms that we associate with jewelry, such as the hinge, clasp, or pin. Instead she focuses on much more organic means of fitting and wearing. Pieces like the Manifold Necklace and Wilting Bounty Necklace fasten by intertwining with their own bodies and tendrils, which gives them a balanced, draped effect.
Although I love jewelry (and wear it often) what struck me about Emily Culver’s works were her unusual material choices, and her exploration of that material through hand fabrication as well as 3D printing. Although a model is wearing each of these pieces, their bold forms and underlying sensuality defy basic ornament. The combination of natural materials in the Biophilia series (pictured above), such as pearl and quartz paired synthetics like silicone, bring these out of the realm of decoration and prompt the viewer or wearer to interact with them.
We subconsciously play with necklaces or twirl rings around our fingers when we wear them, but Culver’s wearable pieces actually invite tactile exploration. Womb Lumiere suggests, of course, a womb (which lights up), and another favorite non-wearable piece is organism-like Feed USB (2011) which plugs into a USB port of a personal computer, lights up, and appears to be parasitically feeding off of the machine. Orifice Bangle is sensuous, prompting even a little discomfort as a wearable object, but it is enticing just the same. This body of work spins the age-old stereotype of women’s desirability of jewelry on its head, by making the piece itself not just an ornament, but a suggestion of sensuality and desire itself.
Having gauged responses to Biophilia, Culver has begun exploring a more fetishized theme in new work that is more evocative of eroticism. Aptly titled Fetish, the series touches on–in terms of both how the pieces are worn, and their shape, material, and color–a closer suggestion of the human form and the relationship between wearable pieces, their uses (real or imagined), and the body itself. She writes:
My new work creates touch sensations that one may find soothing or engaging, but ultimately embarrassing to display publicly due to the erotic nature of the act or amount of pleasure derived. For example some works have push centers for massaging, others have filament-type forms that caress, and others simply have soft orifices for finger insertion.
Some examples from Fetish can be seen below.
Much more information and work by the artist can be found at emily-culver.com.