Paulette Goddard’s Diamond Fringe Necklace

Paulette Goddard (left) sits with Louise Rainer on set for the film 'Dramatic School' (1938). Ms. Goddard appears to be wearing her diamond fringe necklace in the shoot. Photo in public domain.
Paulette Goddard (left) sits with Louise Rainer on set for the film ‘Dramatic School’ (1938). Ms. Goddard appears to be wearing her diamond fringe necklace in the shoot. Photo in public domain.

 

Paulette Goddard owned one of the most delectable diamond fringe necklaces of all time. Most certainly, it was the most notable in her vast collection of jewelry. Ms. Goddard, once married to Charlie Chaplin, became one of the most celebrated jewelry collectors of the 1930s and 1940s.

She is most famous for carting around her favorite pieces in a jewelry box which she carried to all of her movie sets. She showed them off to the production crew in between takes. Like many actresses in those days, she wore most of her own jewels in the movies in which she starred.

This particular necklace was fashioned by the prestigious firm of Trabert & Hoeffer-Mauboussin. It is set in platinum with myriad white diamonds in all shapes and sizes. It has rounds, pendaloques, marquise, and emerald-cut diamonds, and separates into two pieces, allowing the wearer to don a portion of it as a bracelet.

The bracelet piece is comprise of a central marquise-cut diamond centered between a set of five graduated round brilliants on one side and six on the other. The bracelet terminates on either side with three fluted flourishes paved in white diamonds, four of them iced in round brilliants and two of them in baguettes.

Overall, the piece is blindingly beautiful. One source reports that it is comprised of 46 emerald-cut diamonds and 60 other diamonds amounting to 29 carats in accent stones {cited}.

The same website reports that after her death on April 23, 1990, Paulette Goddard bequeathed nearly all of her assets, including her jewelry, to New York University. The estimated value of her estate at the time of her death was $20 million.

Her jewelry and art collections were sold through Sotheby’s in New York, and the estimate for Ms. Goddard’s diamond fringe necklace was set at over $175,000. I’m sure it brought in far more than that, though I have not been able to secure the final bidding price for the piece, as yet.

Ms. Goddard claims that she never once purchased a piece of her extensive jewelry collection for herself. Every gem was given to her by a friend or lover. Her list of paramours includes the aforementioned Charlie Chaplin, as well as Burgess Meredith and Erich Remarque (the famed writer of All Quiet on the Western Front, who also had a longstanding love affair with Marlene Dietrich).

In addition to her endowment to New York University, Ms. Goddard made many contributions to the university while she was still living. The New York Times, reported in 1990  that after Erich Remarque passed away in 1970, she gave his personal library, all his manuscripts, and his diaries to the institution.

For the last twelve years of her life, Ms. Goddard awarded 300 theater and film students $3 million dollars in scholarships to attend the university’s Tisch School of the Arts.

Her vast collection of fine art was counted as part of her $20 million estate, though she had already sold $2.9 million of Impressionist art in 1979. To her dying day, Paulette Goddard was dedicated to theater and film, and to the arts.

~Angela Magnotti Andrews

 

Cleopatra’s Pearl Earrings

Ruud Kahle Mabe Pearl and Pink Tourmaline Earrings

 

Cleopatra’s pearl earrings are credited as the first mention of pearl jewelry in the pages of history {1}. Many a woman has grown bored with power and has resorted to flirtatious bantering with the men in her company.

This was oh so true for Cleopatra, one of the most powerful women in Egyptian history. She is said to have won the heart of Marc Antony, and he hers. Though their tale is tragic in its ending, it is lively in its beginnings.

Their courtship began with a series of pranks. These pranks began with the two in cahoots together. They would roam the streets of Alexandria in disguise, he as a slave and she as a maid {2}. They would eavesdrop outside windows, and sometimes even fall into a brawl in the street, probably over the pretty maiden.

In subsequent days, they played pranks on each other. On a fishing trip, Marc Antony rigged his lines with an abundance of fish. Having caught on to his antics, Cleopatra arranged for a counter-prank. On their next trip, Marc Antony pulled out of the waters a smoked fish hooked on his line {3}.

Upping the ante, the two arranged a little bet. Marc Antony organized an outrageous banquet the likes of which had never been seen before. He bet her that his cost more than any banquet she could throw in return {4}.

She countered his wager, betting that she could throw a feast which would cost her 60,000 pounds of gold. She began the feast in a humble fashion. Near the end, Marc Antony was sure he had won the bet. However, Cleopatra had one last surprise up her sleeve.

“I will now consume on my own the equivalent of 60,000 pounds of gold,” she said placidly.

Upon making this statement she received at hand, from the tray of her slave, a golden goblet filled with vinegar. Holding it in one hand, she lifted her other hand to her ear and removed one of her pearl earrings, easily worth 30,000 pounds of gold.

These earrings were rumored to be among the most delectable, most expensive pearls of their kind. Each earring was fashioned of one large pear-shaped pearl, and the pair was given to Cleopatra by the kings of the East {5}.

She dropped the pearl earring into the goblet, savoring the look of astonishment on Marc Antony’s face as she waited for the vinegar to dissolve the pearl.

Then, she swallowed the contents of the cup, prepared to drop her other pearl into a second cup. It is noted that at this point, the judge of the wager declared Cleopatra the winner, thus sparing the second earring from its demise {6}.

History dictates that the single famed pearl earring was later sliced in two in Rome and made into earrings for a statue of Venus in the Pantheon {7}.

Notes

  1. Rosenthal, Leonard. The Kingdom of the Pearl, London: Nisbet & Co. Ltd., 1919, p. 85.
  2. Jones, Prudence J. Cleopatra: The Last Pharaoh, Haus Publishing, 2006, p. 72.
  3. Ibid., p. 72.
  4. Ibid., p. 73.
  5. Rosenthal, p. 85.
  6. Jones, p. 73.
  7. Ibid.

The Cloud Pearl

Vintage Twin Pearl and Diamond Cocktail Ring

 

A Cloud Pearl is a pearl grown from a drop of water within a cloud. These auspicious pearls are spoken of in the Garuda Purana. This holy book of the Hindus is understood to be the Vedic authority on Indian gemology.

It is written in the Garuda Purana that all gemstones were birthed from the body parts of Vala. Once known as Asura, Vala strove for power and overthrew the universal ruler Indra. He held his throne by force and fear, terrorizing his subjects and even Indra.

After a time, the demigods in his service appealed to him to play a role as an animal sacrifice during a ritual. He allowed them to strap him down, and upon seeing him in such a state his subjects found their opportunity to strip him of his power.

They murdered him in cold blood, cutting him into pieces. Though he had taken the throne by force, he had surrendered his body in a holy setting. Therefore, as the pieces of his body rose to the heavens, they transformed into seeds.

These seeds hovered in the heavens, amid the stars, until they grew heavy. Dropping down one by one, they were planted in various places within the earth. In time, they sprouted and grew into all the beautiful gemstones of the earth.

It is Vala’s teeth that are said to have been the seeds for pearls. Each one dropped into the varied hues of ocean waves, falling into some of the oysters that lay beneath the surface of the waters. Some of these were swallowed by fish, conch shells, and oysters. These gave rise to pearls of the sea that are so celebrated in the month of June.

However, it is the cloud pearl which is revered above all pearls. These are said to grow to the size of a hen’s egg. They are perfectly round and heavy, bright as noonday and enjoyed only by the gods.

They are said to have been born from a water drop within a cloud. The Garuda Purana explains that these pearls rarely reach the earth, reserved for the pleasure of the gods. If one does fall to earth, then blessed above all men will be the one who finds it.

That pearl will be the pearl of great price, offering protection and provision not only for the one who stewards it, but for those within a thousand leagues of his/her birthplace. A person in possession of a cloud pearl would become the sovereign of the whole earth, protecting nearly the entire world from evil.

According to the sacred text, only a person who has achieved transformation for an exceedingly good deed done in a previous incarnation could possibly hope to find a cloud pearl.

These pearls are flawless, bright shining like the stars, with brilliant flashes of sunlight arcing through them. They are the most beautiful pearls imaginable.

Though the cloud pearls are nearly impossible to find, the Hindus believe that other beautiful pearls bring good fortune, as well (though not as much fortune as the cloud pearl). These are said to be found in many places.

Some of the most common places one might find a pearl would include cacao-nuts, bamboo shoots, serpents, the mouth of sea-fish, a conch shell, or an oyster. These varying birthplaces render the pearls different sizes, shapes, and colors, and they afford different blessings upon the owner of these pearls.

Of course, the ones most precious to those born in June are those borne of the oysters of the sea. Those nacreous beauties which shimmer in blinding white, shimmering pink, and even glistening blues.

~Angela Magnotti Andrews

Krishna’s Pearls

Krishna with the gopis. A scene from the Bhâgavata-Purâna-Manuskript. It is possible that the tree in the background might represent one of Krishna's pearl trees.
Krishna with the gopis. A scene from the Bhâgavata-Purâna-Manuskript. It is possible that the tree in the background might represent one of Krishna’s pearl trees.

 

Krishna’s Pearls is a legend of virtue, a fable of sorts, I suppose. It is a story passed down by a number of India’s greatest poets. Here, I offer my rendition of the famed story of June’s birthstone.

The cow-herd girls (gopis) were legendary in the times when Krishna walked the earth. He was the sole object of their affections, and they devoted their every thought to him.

But sometimes, he tested them by approaching them in disguise. He called this a pastime, and enjoyed immensely the opportunity to involve himself in his devotees’ lives.

One day, he disguised themselves and paid them a visit. Noticing their beauty and their bliss as they strung pearls for decorating their cows for an upcoming festival, he drew near to them as they worked.

Desiring to engage them, he attempted to gain their attention with subtleties. When this did not work, he boldly approached them with a request.

“May I acquire from you a few of your pearls for my two most favorite cows, Hamsi and Harini?” he asked the one named Radha. “In doing so, you will secure for yourself a reputation for generosity among the fairest of the fair.”

Radha chose to pretend she heard nothing more than the wind. Her friends followed suit, continuing to string the shimmering pearls onto silken cords in their laps.

Struck by their disrespect, Krishna (still disguised as Hari) scolded the maidens, “Has your beauty dimmed your wits? Please, I beg of you for your sake, listen to my humble request.”

Instead of listening, the maidens began to laugh, Radha laughing the loudest of all. To Krishna, the sound was as delightful as the waves lapping the shores. He stood transfixed by the scene before him.

Finally, Lalita blurted out a response: “These pearls are intended for the cows of the queens and kings of this land. Should we really stoop so low as to offer even a few of them to your humble cows, Shri Hari? Perhaps we should go all the way and give you the whole lot of them!?”

“Oh, my dear maiden,” Krishna responded in glee, “I am so honored by your response, though I must reply that I only require enough to decorate just the horns of my two favorite cows. That is all I ask. Just four short strings of your fine and lovely pearls.”

Lalita made a brazen show of inspecting all of her pearls. “Shri Hari! I am at a loss as to what to do. I see not one single pearl worthy of your cows.”

At this point, Krishna (remaining in disguise) lost his wits and told her to forget the whole matter. He stomped off to his mother and begged her for a number of her finest pearls.

“I’ll show those silly girls,” he said. “I will plant these in the ground and see them sprout and blossom for me in pearls of my very own, of the finest quality.”

And after some cajoling, his devoted mother loaned him her pearls. He planted them in the ground, making a big show of preparing the soil and hedging the field in with thorns, which blossomed in violet flowers which offered a pleasing fragrance to all who were near.

The gopis caught wind of the fragrance and of the success Hari was having with his pearls. By now, they understood that Hari was Krishna, and that he was up to divine business. Seeing themselves as no less than he, they set about gathering pearls from their neighbors to plant in their own field.

While Krishna’s plants bloomed in pearls, theirs sprouted in thistle flowers and thorns. Disappointed in their results and pressured by their neighbors, who had invested in their efforts with their own pearl stores, the gopis were forced to ply their trade in exchange for pearls at the marketplace.

There they were refused and rejected. They returned dejected, and Krishna despaired of their sorrow. No longer were the happy maidens stringing pearls. Instead they were lying in state upon their beds, crying their eyes out.

Krishna approached the maidens and offered them each a box full of his finest pearls to ease their sorrows. In gratitude, they humbled themselves and were restored to their previous bliss.

“Ahh! Krishna’s pearls are the most beautiful in the land,” Radha remarked. “And isn’t he such a clever one?”

They laughed at their misfortune, enjoying the favor of their beloved once more.

~Angela Magnotti Andrews

Jude Clarke at Facèré Jewelry

This bracelet was fashioned by Jude Clarke for Facèré's Tilling Time/Telling Time exhibition last fall. It is called Bridges and is made of sterling silver and pearls. Photo used with permission.
This bracelet was fashioned by Jude Clarke for Facèré’s Tilling Time/Telling Time exhibition last fall. It is called Bridges and is made of sterling silver and pearls. Photo used with permission.

 

Jude Clarke has been pushing metal around for more than thirty years. In her time at the bench, she has drawn inspiration from old tools, machinery, antique jewelry, and historic architecture.

For this piece, a bracelet she calls Bridges, Jude drew upon the black-and-white images of the medieval villages depicted in Akira Kurosawa’s 1960s-era samurai films. The sterling silver has been exposed to a rigorous process of oxidation and then burnished with steel wool in order to convey the essence of having lived through a good many seasons.

The natural pearls impart to the piece the essence of a poem which also sparked the artist’s imagination. The poem, written by Izumi Shikibu, a mid Heian Japanese poet, follows here:

although the wind
blows terribly here,
the moonlight also leaks
between the roof planks of this ruined house.

Pearls have long been associated with both the power and the likeness of the moon. In this remarkable bracelet, which Jude Clarke has painstakingly coaxed into beautiful fan-shaped Japanese foliage, we can imagine that the pearls are indeed beams of moonlight leaking through the planks of an artfully constructed form.

We invite you to view more of Jude Clarke’s beautiful creations at Facèré Jewelry Art Gallery in the City Centre building on Fifth Avenue in downtown Seattle.

~Angela Magnotti Andrews

Cameron Diaz’s Engagement Ring

Take your cues from Cameron Diaz. Choose a wide yellow gold band with diamond accents to signify your love. This Jude Frances ring is made of matte yellow gold with a beautiful design etched in diamonds across its surface. Photo ©2015 EraGem Jewelry.
Take your cues from Cameron Diaz. Choose a wide yellow gold band with diamond accents to signify your love. This Jude Frances ring is made of matte yellow gold with a beautiful design etched in diamonds across its surface. Photo ©2015 EraGem Jewelry.

 

Cameron Diaz’s engagement ring is a mystery. She and now-hubby Benji Madden played coy with the press for months on end before surprising everyone with a private Jewish ceremony at her LA estate on January 5, 2015.

And, true to form, she continues to play coy with the press. Currently, she wears no less than two, often three rings on THAT finger, and no one’s quite sure which is her engagement ring and which is her wedding ring.

Questions abound as to the serpent ring and diamond triple-band ring she was wearing before all the rumors were confirmed. Were thy just a playful hint at what was to come? Or has Benji Madden been uber generous with his golden tokens of affection?

Of course, the truth is that we will never know for sure. Cameron Diaz belongs to the elite and noble A-list crowd whose members carefully cultivate relationships with the press. Their private lives are hinted at, but never exposed. And I admire the heck out of these megastars who wear their fame so regally in a world wide web gone gaga.

Of course, while I absolutely respect their right to privacy, I must confess that the air of mystery makes me long for as much information as I can possibly find to give me a clue about Ms. Diaz’s engagement ring.

So here’s what we know: On October 8, 2014, Ms. Diaz attended the Academy’s Hollywood Luncheon in LA, wearing a triple band of gold paved in diamonds with an elegant serpent band in yellow gold snaking up toward her knuckles. She offered her signature bang sweep to the cameras for a full view.

Shortly after, the press went wild. US said “The Sex Tape actress’ new bling has sparked rumors of a possible engagement to boyfriend Benji Madden.”

E!Online reported, “The 42-year-old actress is sporting some curious new bling that has sparked speculation that she and boyfriend Benji Madden may be engaged.”

But no comments were given to the press, and in a few short months, Ms. Diaz was wearing a different combination on THAT finger. On December 16, 2014, Ms. Diaz offered another view of her left ring finger, this time on The Graham Norton Show.

That time she wore a slim gold band paired up with a chunky gold band speckled with tiny round diamonds. Then on December 19, 2014, Cameron Diaz was spotted out and about, apparently shopping. This time, she wore the same chunky gold band dotted with diamonds and another wide gold band that looks indiscernible in the fuzzy pictures offered by US Magazine.

That week, the magazines were reporting a confirmed engagement between Cameran Diaz and Benji Madden, though no direct quotes were gathered from the couple. It is to Glamour that I turned for the best close-up photos of Cameron Diaz’s golden sparklers.

As Kim Fusaro pointed out, two of the three rings seen most recently on Cameron Diaz’s wedding finger are a twisted band which looks very much like a Cartier de Trinity ring, a chunky gold band speckled with diamonds which features a central triangular diamond which Cameron wears with the point descending toward her, and what most assuredly appears to be a Cartier Love ring in yellow gold.

Since she first began wearing these particular rings, as early as July 2014, Ms. Diaz seems to choose the triangle ring most faithfully, usually pairing it with her twisted ring.

If I were to hazard a guess, I would say that the Trinity and triangle ring were either her engagement rings, or rings Mr. Madden gave her to signify the deepening of his affections for her. Perhaps she purchased one for herself and Mr. Madden purchased the other.

I would further propose that the two rings, worn so faithfully by the actress, carry far more than a symbol of devotion. In looking at the mystical meaning of the triangle, a descending triangle is most closely associated with water and female power and divinity. She is reported to have said that surfing is “like being directly in touch with God. It’s healing and amazing.”

Many speculate that none of these rings could be here engagement ring, because she started wearing them too soon after she and Benji started dating.

I would argue that none of us really know when Cameron and Benji started dating. We know only that the pop press reported that they got engaged sometime in December. And we know that they definitely got married on January 5, 2015.

She continues to favor the Trinity ring and the Triangle ring, and occasionally the Love ring. She seems to always be wearing at least one of these rings nowadays, and it makes sense that she would keep us guessing about the personal nature of these rings. Since we don’t really know her.

I have to say, I’m crazy in love with this fantastic celebrity trend of mixing and matching and keeping us guessing right up to the very end.

What do you think? Which ring is Cameron Diaz’s engagement ring?

Sofia Vergara’s Engagement Ring

This 7-Carat Asscher Cut Diamond Engagement Ring, like Sofia Vergara's engagement ring, could be called more iceberg than diamond. Photo ©2015 EraGem Jewelry.
This 7-Carat Asscher Cut Diamond Engagement Ring, like Sofia Vergara’s engagement ring, could be called “more iceberg than diamond.” Photo ©2015 EraGem Jewelry.

 

Sofia Vergara’s engagement ring came as a surprise on Christmas Day 2014 from her “too handsome” {cited} beau Joe Manganiello. It has been described by USA Today as “more iceberg than diamond” and by the The Knot as “nearly-blinding.”

Ms. Vergara described it to Ellen DeGeneres as “just a little sparkle…subtle, like me.” This, spoken in her usual playful manner against the backdrop of an audience gone wild after they caught a glimpse of what must be over 6 carats in diamonds.

Though she has been more than pleased to offer a glimpse here and there of her gorgeous betrothal gift, the couple has been tight-lipped about Ms. Vergara’s engagement ring details.

Though the Modern Family actress has recently launched her own line of silver and gold jewels with Kay Jewelers, it’s doubtful that a man like Joe Manganiello asked his sweetheart to design her own ring.

Something tells me that he chose from among the best of the best to find the perfect jewel to express his passion for the woman who knocked him off his game from the moment he saw her (uh-hum, butt) {cited}.

Here’s what we know so far:

  • The central diamond is prong set and appears to be a cushion-cut white stone of epic proportions, likely 6 carats or more.
  • The central diamond is rimmed around its girdle in a halo of micro diamonds, also colorless.
  • The delicate band, iced in tiny white diamonds, is fashioned from one of the white metals.

Especially with access to all her So Sofia jewelry campaigns, Joe can be under no doubt that his ladylove is a woman whose primary passions are family and jewelry. She mentions, not at all casually, in her Kay Jewelers campaigns, “I’ve loved jewelry since the day I was born….I don’t feel dressed without it – I even go to sleep with jewelry on. It’s how I express myself – my style, my attitude and the way I feel” {cited}

And how does she feel about her engagement ring and the promise it carries so elegantly?

“I’m so lucky,” she told Ellen.

Indeed, if we could all be so lucky, eh?

~Angela Magnotti Andrews, Staff Writer

Dutch Wedding Customs

Mens Benchmark Wedding Band

A Dutch wedding can last from mid-morning one day until the wee hours of the next day. Dutch couples typically manage two guest lists. The first list includes their closest friends and family members. These “day guests,” as they’re called, will participate in every aspect of a Dutch wedding.

The second list incorporates their wider social networks, to include extended family, coworkers, acquaintances, and others whom the bride and groom wish to include in the festivities.

A typical Dutch wedding begins mid-morning at the bride’s parents’ house. Their day guests enjoy a light snack of coffee or tea and “small bites.” Photos are passed around, stories are told, laughs and hugs are shared, and the bride and groom are made ready for the ceremony.

Many Dutch brides follow the European tradition of wearing a white wedding gown, and grooms wear a dark suit or a tuxedo. The day guests typically dress in Sunday best, but formality is reserved primarily for the betrothed. If a Dutch bride wishes her day guests to dress more formally, she is advised to note her dress code on the formal invitations, as the norm is far more casual than most U.S. weddings.

A Dutch couple is often seen together at these morning receptions, and typically all of those present will travel together to the ceremony venue.  Holland is a secular nation, so the government does not recognize a religious ceremony as a legally binding marriage contract. Those couples who desire to be married by a priest or pastor must plan two ceremonies.

The first is presided over by a government official, who spends time getting to know the couple before their big day. These civil ceremonies usually include music and readings by the bride’s and groom’s closest friends. They also include a brief account of the couple’s love story, shared with guests by the officiant.

Religious ceremonies typically follow the civil ceremonies and are routinely structured as a full church service. The pastor or priest will give a full-length sermon or message on topic to marriage, and the rites and rituals of that church’s denomination will be observed in full tradition.

A Dutch wedding ceremony, whether civil or religious, is typically an open event, where both day guests and the guests from the second list will attend together. After the ceremony, the smaller group of day guests will accompany the bride and groom to the reception venue. Those guests that are not a part of this intimate group will go home until after dinner.

At the reception, the couple is seated beneath a canopy of evergreen boughs. This display of greenery is meant to symbolize everlasting love. Here their friends and family members toast the couple with champagne and share the wedding cake together.

Gifts are presented, and the bride and groom are expected to open them in the company of their day guests. Each gift is lingered over, admired and passed around. As the guests ooh and aah and wait their turn to peek at all the lovely gifts, bowls of brandied raisins are passed around for nibbles.

Following the toasts and gifts, a formal feast is then served at the same location. These feasts are one of the pivotal events of the day. Again, this part of the celebration is shared only with the couple’s most intimate friends and family members. A main meal is served, often buffet style.

In addition to whatever main courses are served, the traditional sweetmeats called Bruid suikas (Bridal Sugar) are served. Five pieces of this special savory pastry are arranged in tuule bags, to represent a hope of love, happiness, loyalty, prosperity, and virility.

A spiced wine called Bruidstranen (Bride’s Tears) is also served. In addition to the pungent spices, gold leaf is a customary ingredient in this special mulled wine. The golden flakes are meant to symbolize the tears of joy shed by the bride on her momentous day.

After dinner, the tables are cleared and a dance floor is arranged. The music is turned up, and the bar is opened. The couple stands ready to once again greet their broader circle of friends and extended family. They kick off their shoes and start in with a proper Dutch celebration – a dance party with a festive air of joy and love and laughter. These parties are rumored to be among the best of the best and typically last until 2AM or later.

Dutch wedding traditions focus on the simple pleasures of a couple’s favorite stories, favorite songs, and favorite people. The bride and groom are celebrated all throughout the day, sent away on their honeymoon buoyed by the love and support of their friends and families. It all sounds so very lovely to me.

~Angela Magnotti Andrews, Staff Writer

Jana Brevick at Bellevue Arts Museum

Meet Puzzleguts by Jana Brevick. To view humanity through Jana Brevick's eyes is to see yourself in a whole new light, one of humor and grace. This and other works by Jana Brevick are on view now at the Bellevue Arts Museum. Photo used with permission.
Meet Puzzleguts by Jana Brevick. To view humanity through Jana Brevick’s eyes is to see yourself in a whole new light, one of humor and grace. This and other works by Jana Brevick are on view now at the Bellevue Arts Museum. Photo used with permission.

 

Jana Brevick has curated her first solo gallery exhibit at the Bellevue Arts Museum. On view between now and August 16, 2015, “This Infinity Fits in My Hand” showcases Jana’s exploration of the concepts of past, present, and future in the media of metals, obsolete technology, and recycled materials.

I recently had the privilege of viewing Jana Brevick’s exhibit and spoke with the artist herself. Perhaps the most important point I gleaned from our brief and delightful chat was that making jewelry and experimental installations is Jana’s primary vehicle for exploring what it is to be human.

Whimsy and pure fun are etched into nearly every piece of Jana’s collections. Much of her work pokes fun at herself and the rest of us, without pointing fingers. She appears to understand deeply the foibles of humanity, but has chosen to showcase her keen observations in a way that causes a person to feel like they’ve been fully and completely understood. As opposed to feeling like they’re being mocked.

She told me that the point of her work is to “get the joke across.” She hopes her viewers will feel a small sense of awe and a touch of humor. “I want people to keep exploring what pushes their boundaries, because that’s when we grow and share the most as humans.”

I certainly found myself chuckling on more than one occasion as I immersed myself in Jana’s world. Hers is a unique eye, a unique artistry, a unique presentation of human nature. It wasn’t only me, either. Others got the joke, as well. I could tell by the knowing chuckles I heard here and there as other visitors viewed Jana’s work.

The piece that I think elicited the most universal response was not a jewel. Rather, it was what she terms an environmental installation. Called Input Modulator, it is a computing device reminiscent of 1960s sci-fi flicks. The description explains that the Input Modulator has been temporarily removed from HQ and placed in the museum in order to demonstrate the “vastly over-scaled proportions” of early computers.

This, in juxtaposition to those in the current generations whose computers have always been human-sized, and are now becoming micro-sized. I couldn’t help but wonder, as I pondered the Input Modulator and the words that accompany it, whether our fears of technology and our fears of the future have diminished as we’ve gained more and more control over our human-scale devices.

And the fact that I stood there asking myself this question proves that Jana Brevick has fulfilled her mission, at least with one person. I allowed myself to be pulled in by the humor, by the subtle and not-so-subtle artistry of a woman who is passionate about her art and about her humanity.

If you love human beings, with all their strengths and weaknesses, and especially if you love sci-fi and technology, then I cannot more strongly recommend a visit to the Bellevue Arts Museum to view Jana Brevick’s exhibition, “This Infinity Fits in My Hand.”

For more information, visit BAM’s website.

“Read My Pins” at BAM

Breaking the Glass Ceiling, featured in the Bellevue Arts Museum's "Read My Pins" exhibition. This pin was worn by Madeleine Albright to send the message that she and those like her were breaking the glass ceiling for women of all ages. The brooch was designed by Vivian Shimoyama and photographed by John Bigelow Taylor. Used courtesy of BAM.
Breaking the Glass Ceiling, featured in the Bellevue Arts Museum’s “Read My Pins” exhibition. This brooch was worn by Madeleine Albright to send the message that she and those like her were breaking the glass ceiling for women of all ages. The brooch was designed by Vivian Shimoyama and photographed by John Bigelow Taylor. Used courtesy of Bellevue Arts Museum.

 

“Read My Pins” is a unique exhibition to find in an art museum. It features an eclectic collection of brooches, mostly of the costume variety, that represent a woman whose art cannot be found anywhere on display; not painted on canvas, not etched in glass, and not forged in metal or decorated with gemstones.

The brooches were described in the Washington Post as “garish tchothkes.” Kathleen Vanesian of the Phoenix New Times goes so far as to say that the show is “often ridiculously segmented into categories,” and she doesn’t feel it belongs in the Phoenix Art Museum.

I believe Ms. Vanesian raises an important question, one the arts community continues to ask about art in general and jewelry specifically. What constitutes art?

Most of these brooches were acquired at garage sales and dime stores, out of the way shops visited by a woman whose role in shaping US foreign policy and democracy has done nothing to alter her down-to-earth, no-nonsense approach to collecting jewelry.

So, is it art?

I suppose the answer depends largely upon how you define the word. Was it made by master craftsmen using old world techniques?

Most of it was not.

Was it pieced together in the studio by a visionary who artfully considered the means and methods by which she pieced together the stones and carved the lines of metal?

Most of it was not.

Was it fashioned out of nature’s most beautiful offerings: precious gold or silver, diamonds and rubies?

Most of it was not.

Then why has this collection of costume brooches of varying themes and designs, loosely grouped in categories of insects, hearts, and patriotic symbols, taken such a prominent place in the central exhibition hall at the Bellevue Arts Museum?

An institution whose mission is to ignite the mind and fuel creativity? An institution dedicated to art, craft, and design?

I propose that in this case, Read My Pins falls under the Bellevue Arts Museum’s commitment to the exploration of creativity. This collection of brooches belongs to a woman whose creativity was played out day after day in state rooms, board rooms, and conference rooms.

Her media included words, moods, and all the forms of nonverbal communication she could muster. Including her jewelry. After a number of difficult negotiations with Iraqi officials, Madeleine Albright was described by one of Saddam Hussein’s poets (read, press agents) as an “unparalleled serpent.”

At her next meeting with these officials, Ms. Albright wore a pin with a serpent coiled around a single branch, a jewel hanging from its mouth like an egg it was about to swallow. From that point on, Ms. Albright, who was appointed the first female Secretary of State in 1997, took up the habit of inviting colleagues and press agents to, “Read my pins.”

I think a person would be hard-pressed to find a more creative way for a diplomat to express her creativity. And visitors to the Bellevue Arts Museum have the opportunity to stand face to face with a collection of jewels that represents feminine prowess in the face of national and international crises on a scale that most of us can only comment on from our armchairs.

It may seem out of place in an arts museum, but for those of us who choose to look deeper, beyond the mere surface appearance, we have the pleasure of discovering far more than meets the eye. Madeleine Albright is a woman who gave of herself in every way to promote freedom and democracy on a global scale.

A casual glance at her pins and the stories and quotes that go with them might leave a bitter aftertaste of ethnocentrism and even arrogance, terms that are often bandied about wherever discussions of American politics and foreign policy take place.

However, upon deeper inspection, we find a collection of heartfelt messages, hopes and dreams, intents and purposes. We find a woman who worked hard to learn the ways of peace and, yes, the art of war, in an arena populated by men who were often affronted by the very prospect of a woman sitting at table with them.

We find a woman who never compromised her femininity, yet found ways to hold her own and make a true difference in the world. We find a woman humble enough to share her weaknesses along with her strengths. A woman who made every decision with careful consideration for the long-range consequences, not just for American citizens, but also for the citizens of the world.

A woman who faced challenges the likes of which most of us will never taste, who felt the inadequacy every woman faces, but on a global scale. A woman who wrote, “There were times I felt stymied by my own government, treated unfairly by Congress and the press, and frustrated by own inability to wave a wand and magically reshape events” {from her book Madame Secretary}.

And yet, she showed up for work every single day, ready to give of all her gifts, all her experience, and all her energies to secure freedom for as many people on the earth as possible in her few short years as Secretary of State.

She further writes in her book Madame Secretary, “People sometimes ask me how I want to be remembered. I reply that I don’t want to be remembered; I am still here. But when the day comes, I hope people will say that I did the best with what I was given, tried to make my parents proud, served my country with all the energy I had, and took a strong stand on the side of freedom. Perhaps some will say that I helped teach a generation of older women to stand tall and young women not to be afraid to interrupt.”

I, for one, am grateful to the Bellevue Arts Museum for believing in the value of displaying a collection that, while not necessarily considered traditional or even contemporary art, was clearly artfully curated by a woman whose artistry has and will continue to inspire many around the world.

I encourage you to take an hour out of your day and $12 out of your wallet to immerse yourself in the realm of American foreign policy and American values as seen through the lens of a woman whose life has been dedicated to both since her family came to America for safety in the late 1940s.

Visit the Bellevue Arts Museum website for more information.

~Angela Magnotti Andrews, Staff Writer