08-26-08%20%20For%20the%20Love%20of%20Nature

08-26-08%20%20For%20the%20Love%20of%20Nature - by MAURA c,...

Info iconThis preview shows pages 1–8. Sign up to view the full content.

View Full Document Right Arrow Icon
Background image of page 1

Info iconThis preview has intentionally blurred sections. Sign up to view the full version.

View Full DocumentRight Arrow Icon
Background image of page 2
Background image of page 3

Info iconThis preview has intentionally blurred sections. Sign up to view the full version.

View Full DocumentRight Arrow Icon
Background image of page 4
Background image of page 5

Info iconThis preview has intentionally blurred sections. Sign up to view the full version.

View Full DocumentRight Arrow Icon
Background image of page 6
Background image of page 7

Info iconThis preview has intentionally blurred sections. Sign up to view the full version.

View Full DocumentRight Arrow Icon
Background image of page 8
This is the end of the preview. Sign up to access the rest of the document.

Unformatted text preview: by MAURA c, FLANNERY FOR TH E LOVE OF NATURE BIOPHILIA AND CONTEMPORARY JEWELRY In his treatise on the subject. biologist Edward 0. Wilson defines biophilia as an innate human urge to have contact with other species, to spend time in natural environments. surrounded by animals and other living things.‘ We attempt to satisfy this biophilic desire by filling our homes with plants. pets. and representations of flora and fauna. Such depictions appear not only in our abodes. however. but also on our bodies. in the form of jewelry. In fact. adornments illustrated with animals and plants are found in cultures throughout the world. both today and throughout history. Biophilia might help explain why we buy lizard brooches and rose-shaped earrings. and may pr0vide the catalyst for a renewed sensitivity to the natural world. One of the lines of evidence used by Wilson and other biologists to support the idea of a genetic basis for human behaviors is to observe tneir ubiquity. in terms of biophilia. examples of ancient jewelry from a number of different Cultures reveal both the long history of natural representations in body ornament and also this custom's geographical breadth. Every continent yielded such ornaments: a Chinese bat pendant. an Aztec serpent brooch. a Baule bird pendant from the lvory Coast. earrings with enameled birds from medieval Ukraine. In Western culture. the tradition of animal and plant images in personal adornment is as equally ubiquitous. JAN YAGER The Tiara of Useful Knowledge. 2006 from "City Flora: The Philadelphia Series" (transforms into S brooches. 2 stick pins. tie tac. pendant. headband} sterling silver.13k & Mk gold. quartz pebble assembled 9 x12" Photo. Jack Rarnsdaie 34 METALSMITH vol 25 no: 3-6 METALSMITI'I mi '23 no J IT CAN BE AR'GU ED THAT THE ASSOCIATION BETWEEN JEWELRY AND BIOLOGY GOES BEYOND JUST SUBJECT MATTER. AND THAT NATURALISTIC REPRESENTATIONS IN ART WERE FORMATIVE IN THE DEVELOPMENT OF SCIENTIFIC INQUIRY ITSELF. It should be acknowledged that the portrayai of plants and animals in jewelry throughout history is often symbolic. It would be hard to claim the biophilic importance of an American eagle pin on the Fourth of luly. or a shamrock on the lapel on St. Patrick's Day. But the very fact that animals and plants are so frequently used as symbols argues for. rather than against. this genetic predisposition. When trying to express deeply felt beliefs and aspirations. humans have always looked to the living world for symbols. Perhaps in creating images to convey key ideas and beliefs. we turn to what we feel most attached to; namely other forms of life. Art and Science The ecologist Evelyn Hutchinson notes that the predominance of ornaments combining man—made and natural materials during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. prevides strong examples of the melding of art and science. of decoration and natural history. For him. these ornaments represent the time before a divide between art and science. This was back when "cabinets of curiosities" housed objects from both realms. and in the case of such jewelry. adornment that united the two spheres. This connection between ornament and nature during the Renaissance and Baroque periods has been viewed in a slightly different light by science historian Pamela Smith. She argues that craftsmen such as goldsmiths contributed to the development of modern science by creating realistic representations of plants and animals. To achieve lifelike renderings of small creatures such as salamanders. goldsmiths even subdued live animals by submerging them in urine or vinegar. then encased them in plaster to make accurate molds. Smith argues that in pushing toward naturalism. artisans had to combine their craft expertise with close observation of nature. including handling specimens and keeping notes and sketches. She draws a link between "knowing" and "doing." between a growing interest in naturalism and the emergence of a new visual culture that stressed eyewitness and firsthand experience. These values then influenced the development of modern science. with its emphasis on direct observation. So it can be argued that the association between jewelry and biology goes beyond just subject matter. and that naturalistic representations in art were formative in the development of scientific inquiry itself. Art Nouveau and Beyond Another period rich with nature—based art was the end of the nineteenth century and beginningof the early twentieth century. at the height of the Art Nouveau movement. Artists like Rene Lalique masterfully blended realism and stylization. and this interplay of naturalism and artifice marked many designs of the time. in the years after the Great Crash of 1929. when the formerly rich tried to maintain the appearance of wealth by wearing elaborate pieces of costume jewelry. nature- based designs filtered down to the broader jewelry market as well. Collector Gabriella Mariotti notes that many of the most successful costume pieces were representations of flowers. from glass pansies to rhinestone studded enamel tulips. which perhaps provided the reassuring presence of nature's bOunty. There are also many extravagant examples of biophilia in the jewelry of the mid-twentieth century. an era when. at least in some circles. money was abundant and there were reasons to celebrate through flamboyant adornment. Present~Day Examples Today the artistic interest in natural imagery endures. with depictions of organisms in jewelry ranging from realism to extreme stylization. Sharon Church's finely rendered brooch Oh. No.l unites the animal and vegetable realms. featuring a carved frog with gold above SHARON CHURCH Oh. No! {brooch}. (2006i carved Castello boxwood. enamel paint. lacquer. 14k yeitow gold. old European Cut diamonds 6 x 3 W. x 2" Photo: Ken ‘i‘anoviak opposite DAVlD FREDA The Mushroom Connoisseur (brooch). 2003 - fine silver. 24k.‘18k,14k yellow gold. pearls. enamel 4 x 1 x 1" Photo; Erica and Harold Van Pelt Collection of Mr 3‘ Mrs. Wade C. Harrison flowers on its back. in David Freda's highly realistic The Mushroom Connoisseur (2003), an enameled snail accented with pearls savors a morel, in a beautiful combination of naturalism and luxury. Among his vast menagerie of enamel and jewel creatures. Freda has also created a series of slightly sinister snake egg necklaces that are at once attractive and repellent. in fact. creepy creatures show up quite regularly in jewelry: the dangerous transformed into desirable opulence. This interest may relate to the phenomenon of biophilia. In Biophiiia. Wilson writes of evidence for what appears to be both an inborn fear of. and a fascination with, snakes. Both reactions offer an adaptive advantage: helping humans avoid being bitten by the venomous animals. Perhaps this fascination lies at the core of our attraction to rather repellent creatures as body decoration. We may somehow find it appealing to take the repulsive and make it gorgeous; it may also be comforting to freeze these uncontrollable creatures in solid metal and jewels. 38 METALSMI'T'H vul .28 no 3 German artist Georg Dobler explores this dynamic of fear and fascination. His Rhino Beetie Neckiace (2007) features two dark and dangerous—looking black beetles flanking a large gemstone. Sondra Sherman's brooch series "Anthophobia: Fear of Flowers.“ takes a more ironic approach to our apprehension of nature. Contrary to the series title. her corsage-like brooches are steel fabrications of plants and flowers—such as St. John's wort or passion flower—each with properties to relieve social fears and anxieties. The Philadelphia goldsmith Jan Yager often depicts plant species that might not be considered worthy of rendering in precious metal. The artist gets many of her ideas—and materials—from the streets near her studio. Through collecting and researching plants that grow in sidewalk cracks and empty lots she has disc0vered that several of these common SUCH WORKS COULD BE CONSIDERED A PERVERSION OF BIOPHILIA: ATTRACTION TO OTHER SPECIES CAN LEAD TO KILLING ORGANISMS JUST TO KEEP TH EM CLOSE TO US... plants are not native species. This realization led Yager to create American Tiara: Invasive Species (2001) in which virulent weeds suggest that the beautiful can be dangerous. Yager's new work. The Tiara of Useful Knowledge (2007) is adorned with gold and silver portraits of ten plants. including rye. ragweed. potato. tobacco. and clover. The elaborate tiara. which disassembles into separate wearable components. celebrates the crucial importance of plants in our lives and takes its title from the charter of the American Philosophical Society. founded in Philadelphia in 1743 "for Promoting Useful Knowledge." Jewelry artist Jennifer Trask's Cluster Brooch (2007) is crafted of actual beetles. and harks back to the nineteenth-century fashion for wearing real organisms as ornament. Historian Michelle Tolini's article on the zoological in nineteenth-century dress recalls that this fad included live beetles tethered to gold chains. climbing on ladies' shoulders. a craze that continued into the mid—twentieth century. Among other period examples. Tolini cites a pair of hummingbird earrings. which sported the dangling birds' heads. Such works could be considered a perversion of biophilia: attraction to other species can lead to killing organisms just to keep them close to us. as with deer-head trophies and tiger-skin rugs. or sheep skin coats and fur jackets. Tina Rath's fur tufted Beige Mink Hanging Neckpiece (2001) provides a commentary on the latter and forces us to reconsider our strong attraction to fur. opp osite above GEORC DOBLER JENNIFERTRASK Rhino Beetle Necklace. 2007 Cluster Brooch, 2007 oxidized silver. fine quality citrine 22k a 18K green golds. palladium. 19 x 3" unidentified Brazilian beetles. citrines. Photo: Aimee Fr): golden topaz, seed pearl. glass eye. watch glass central oval '2 V? x 1 V2" Photo: Sergeinvetin Courtesy Andora Gallery MEXICO leweleo‘ Tenebrionio‘ Beetle Pin. 20th C. Courtesy Entomology fan-(lion. University of Colorado Museum of Natural History. Beulder. Colorado TINA RATH Beige Mink Hanging Neckpiece. 2001 beige mink. silk. velvet ribbon. silver 39 SHEPARD ASSERTS THAT CONTACT WITH NATURE REMAINS A NECESSITY FOR NORMAL PSYCHOLOGICAL MATU RATION, AND ARGUES THAT WITHOUT AN INTIMATE RELATIONSHIP WITH LIVING THINGS DURING OUR FORMATIVE YEARS. HUMANS REACH PHYSICAL ADULTHOOD WITH A SENSE OF DISSATISFACTION AND EVEN RACE. 40 METALSMITH vol :23 Im a Human Development Another dimension of the bond between jewelry and biophilia is expiored by ecologist Paul Shepard in his 1996 book Traces of an Omnivore. Shepard links human biology and behavior but with a more developmental emphasis He contends that since humans evolved in a world rich in other organisms and had constant contact with them. animals and plants have shaped human biology. Therefore. such contact is necessary for normal human development, both physical and. more importantly. psychological. For millions of years. our ancestors functioned in close contact with flora and fauna: and the few thousand years since our species has taken up agriculture and other forms of civilized behavior are too short to have had much effect on human evolution. Humans evolved as hunter-gatherers. in close proximity to both animals and plants. Close observation was necessary for hunting. and there was a need to identify with the prey in order to track it and anticipate its movements. Shepard asserts that contact with nature remains a necessity for normal psychological maturation. and argues that without an intimate relationship with living things during our formative years, humans reach physical adulthood with a sense of dissatisfaction and even rage. feelings that underlie much contemporary violence. For Shepard. images of animals are useful as reminders of the living world. though they are not substitutes for exposure to real life forms. 50 even jewelry depicting flora and fauna could play a role in building mental wellbeing. In addition. Shepard maintains that plants function to enrich the maturation of the human mind. offering Marriage tactile contact and requiring patience and close attention for their nurture. Horticulturist Charles Lewis similarly describes in Green Nature/Human Nature the many ways in which plants influence our lives. from their therapeutic medicinal value to their recreational role in parks and backyards. So a Chrysanthemum brooch might be a good reminder of this basic link to nature. Perhaps even better is Curiy (2007). a brooch by Dutch jewelerTerhiTolvanen. featuring a twisted piece of hazelnut wood set with silver. These may be rather-large claims for wooden brooches anc hummingbird earrings. Indeed. it is my intention to be provocative. to speak about iewelry in a different way. to illustrate a link between what we wear and how we think about the natural world. and finally. to celebrate this bond as fascinating and curious. By emphasizing the connection between adornment and the environment, we might help awaken the innate biophilia in others. The more people appreciate their ties to nature. the more likely they are to value and preserve the living world around them. WURA C. FLANNERY. an author and professor of biology at St. John‘s University in New York, is interested in the relationship between art and science. ‘ Edward O. Wilson. Biophiiia (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. 1984}. above TERl ll TOLVANEN Curly {brooch} from “Woo ciland" series, opposite SONDRA SHERMAN Corsage: Passii‘i‘ora--Passion Fiower. from “Anthophobia: Fear of Flowers' 200? series. 200? silver. hazelnut wood steel. nail polish width S tr?" 3 3h x 3 1h: x 1" Photo. Francis Willemstijn. Courtesy Charon Kransen Am 41 ...
View Full Document

Page1 / 8

08-26-08%20%20For%20the%20Love%20of%20Nature - by MAURA c,...

This preview shows document pages 1 - 8. Sign up to view the full document.

View Full Document Right Arrow Icon
Ask a homework question - tutors are online