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This Master’s Statement is respectfully submitted to Cranbrook Academy of Art as partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Fine Arts.

Iris Eichenberg Head, Metalsmithing Department Artist-in-Residence


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With special thanks to Iris Eichenberg for her inspiration and guidance, Edgar Mosa for his installation and photographic expertise, Jovencio de la Paz for his input and thoughts on my work, and the community of Cranbrook Academy of Art for support and encouragement.

Rebekah Frank May 6, 2012


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betrayal. Rebekah Frank & the body in contemporary jewelry 1. “How is jewelry about the body?” Those words seemed fixed in the Bavarian air, already too warm for early March. In 2012 I spent a week in Munich, waiting anxiously with the patient, German pedestrians who seemed to never jaywalk, never dash for the green light. I would dart in and out of alleyways, turning unexpected corners into temporarily decommissioned Swedish churches, into apartment buildings, into defunct subway stations, into museums of hunting and taxidermy, all repurposed into venues for contemporary jewelry—orbital venues of the “Schmuck Jewelry Fair,” a perennial exhibition of jewelry seemingly, for the field, tantamount to a Whitney or Venice Biennial, a Miami Basel. How interesting, I thought, to find tucked into the many corners of “The City of the Future,” tiny three or four person exhibitions of jewelry. Rooms pinned with brooches, the walls and the curtains suddenly the room’s garments, the adorned body of space draped in necklaces, gold against leather, paper against bone, chain and hooks and thread: all a murmur with a discourse and an intimacy alien to me. I found myself twice an auslander: a Chinese-American in Germany and a foreigner to the terrain of jewelry. And yet during the runway shows and showcases, in the bars and studios packed with jewelers both novitiate and legendary, the shaking of hands and passing of business cards, the pinning of brooches and fawning of rings and the air-kissing of cheeks, those words remained still, fixed in the center of my mind’s focus: “how is jewelry about the body?” Is it enough to defer to “wearing,” to “adornment?” At Schmuck the obviousness of such language seemed insufficient, and I could feel amongst all the artists, jewelers and eager students an urgency to find a broader definition, a cultural body, a body politic to adorn.


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2. Small differences were everything at the orbital exhibitions of Schmuck— to be welcomed to touch, to likewise welcome touch. In Constanze Schreiber’s studio, the pieces came off the walls so fast. Their glittering thinness and the curves of their many planes... their openness and their placelessness between interior and exterior. The pieces moved as swift as their lightness would suggest. I would blink or turn my head and suddenly a necklace would have leapt onto the neck of a new body, transferring, in transit, mercurial. The artists were so generous with their work, wherever we went. They were excited even, to see a stranger dawn a brooch or a ring, a necklace, and they would go so far as to adorn strangers themselves. They would whip out their digital cameras and suddenly we found ourselves in an impromptu photo shoot. This was an intimacy that seemed so integral to the nature of the field, the animation of the static form, its wandering towards a body, towards home. Not so in the field of contemporary art, of which I am exceedingly more familiar. That terrain is one of distance, of arms folded behind the back. In contemporary art we gingerly lean in to “see,” but rarely to touch, let alone find ourselves before an artist eager to have us manipulate, alter and play. And the case seems to be, that in jewelry and in life, we know most of intimacy not by knowledge of ourselves, but by the knowledge of another, the knowledge of another’s body. How is jewelry about the body, then? Jewelry enters life as bodies do: they sit as corollary, their own physicality and their site on our physicality do not simply speak about us a wearers, not simply about our singularity or our identities. Rather, such objects rest at a nexus of confrontational bodies. 3. In the work of Rebekah Frank, I think of many kinds of bodily confrontation. A piece of steel, so heavy and so cold, though small enough to remain hidden in the palm of my hand, finds its way into my life from Rebekah’s studio. It fits like a lump in my stomach at first. I fumble with it, toss it and turn it, maneuver through the space it defines. Like the nervousness of a new lover, it sits in my stomach until it is warmed by my own body. Then, it opens its smoothness to me, its secret angles and edges. In the smallness of its body, one would think that it would provide little, if any confrontation. But to know the objects that come from Rebekah Frank’s studio is to begin a bodily negotiation contingent on time. Unlike her necklaces, the small sculpture suggests no permanent home on the frame. It has no chain to hang from, no brooch backing or pin. It migrates daily, from pockets to hands, from left to right, up and down until it is hot from friction. The confrontation allowed by Rebekah Frank through this tiny piece of blackened steel is the rediscovery of my own perimeters. It is a process like juggling, one that can only occur through the body’s interaction with the alterity of an object. And above all, it begins to reveal the specter of gravity, as it pushes down towards the core of the earth through my fingertips.


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4. More pointedly, I feel the urgent weight of gravity around my collar bones when I wear Rebekah Frank’s early necklaces. The hand formed steel chain remembers my body’s own warmth just as the small sculpture did, but masses of steel, volumes and masses, hang from the chain. The masses press on the sternum, magnify the motions of breathing, clarify a bodily confrontation alluded to in the small sculptures. I think of the time in the summer when I learned to administer CPR, that density pressing against my chest. There is a hidden energy embedded in these early pieces, a potential energy to expose gravity in a form, to give form to that formlessness through bodily awareness. This virtuosity, the ability of the work in the hands of the maker to sharpen the wearer’s sense of gravity through material acuity, begins to describe a deep terrain with many facets. For weight and gravity, the sense of a thing’s density might press against the chest with welcome intimacy. But the implications of gravity can be extreme, as we would soon discover. 5. In the profound simplicity of all forces of nature, we are quick to apply anthropomorphism. We imagine complex relations, narratives and characteristics to forces that maintain total disregard for us. In its essential moodlessness, gravity betrays what it also illuminates. In a dark stairway somewhere, Rebekah Frank falls and shatters her left ankle. The body’s bones, which would otherwise press affirmatively against the weight of her work, find their limitations, find the destructive extent of gravity, find the very real limitations of the body’s angles. It is rare that I would so directly draw parallels between an artist’s biography and their work, but for the exploration of body and jewelry at the heart of Rebekah’s project, I will go out on a limb. Apart from mass, apart from the reality of gravity’s normal force, there are more secret revelations of the body to be had in Rebekah’s oeuvre. In more recent necklaces, the line, wrought in steel, takes the place of the mass. These lines, drawn seemingly ductile in space, rest in ideal balance on the wall. Placed in such perfect arrangements, they are transformed the moment they leave Rebekah’s carefully curated wall installations. Their equilibrium is betrayed by gravity, they fall and drape in unexpected ways, they torque and twist and fall into new angles as they make their way to the neck of the wearer. Once there, they do not rest, but continue to shift over the terrain of the body. These steel curves become an act of form becoming, a proposal for the wearer to negotiate the angles of their own body, and in this confrontation, to be surprised by angles in the body perhaps previously unexplored.

Jovencio de la Paz


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I make necklaces. I make drawings. The medium I use is steel, specifically handmade chain and narrow rod. I work with steel because of familiarity. After years of being a skilled technician of multiple steel processes, I feel comfortable in my abilities to work with the material in a conventional way. I am interested in using steel in unexpected ways. I need a clear space to work. The way my mind operates necessitates a quiet workspace. My table tends to be regimented, organized in grids and lines, running parallel and perpendicular. It gives me pleasure to lay out my tools like surgical instruments, nothing unnecessary, nothing excessive. Exactly what is needed to complete the task at hand. Balance and symmetry are powerful forces in my space; there is no need to create unnecessary instability. There is no exuberance in my space. No riot of materials, textures, and color that tantalize the senses. I find that kind of environment over stimulating which makes it difficult for me to focus. I prefer a sparse, spare space that allows my mind a place to unwind. That said, I find my constant vase of flowers that I have in the studio an island of visual interest that I enjoy looking at. I often spend time staring at the individual flowers, marveling at the texture and depth of color that such a simple object can contain. I also take pleasure in the contortions of the flowers as they die: the parts that fall and the twist of the stems. Not in a morbid way, more in the appreciation of the dual aesthetic value. I work within geometric form and line. The simplicity within a structured form is compelling to me; I prefer the structure to be minimal, spacious, without a lot of layering. The chains I build react to gravity, creating a drape and a radius. The radius of the rightangled corners is where softness enters the pieces, because in spite of the geometry and material, they are not hard pieces. There is a delicacy in the line and in the structure.


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The pieces can exist in two ways: on the body as jewelry and on the wall as drawings. The work is very quiet when it is on the wall. When displayed, the way the pieces might hang on the body isn’t immediately apparent. Instead, there is a direct relationship to gravity, the planar surface of the wall, and the way light recasts the piece in shadow. That the pieces can exist on the wall is important to me; I find the jewelry box a place of exile. The work is complicated by the body when worn, when the linear structures come in contact with the curves of the flesh. Several pieces can be worn in different ways, each variation changing the dynamic of how the piece interacts with the body, even the personality of the piece. The body animates the work. As I have worked with steel, it has come to be a recognizable stand in for myself. People see a resemblance between who I am and what steel represents, between my directness and the starkness of the work. I am not that interested in delving deeply into the way my work is seen or understood. It is interesting to hear how people interpret it but I am not making with a specific subject matter in mind. And I don’t want to try and convey a certain message. I am interested in how things go together and the resulting form. I don’t sit down with a topic in mind. Perhaps, the longer I create the more specific my intentions will become, but right now, I feel like I am just beginning. I find the process of creating exhausting but exciting. Each time I make a move forward, I feel such trepidation. But once I have made it over a particular hurdle, looking back, I wonder at how small an obstacle it was. I feel like creating is an unpacking of my life, an opening. The immediacy of the hand work, the physical commitment it requires, the total focus of the process all are important elements. I find the intensity of the work to be an outlet for unvoiced thoughts and pent up resentment. That each mark is recorded in the material is a wonder to me. The recognition that I did that is an affirmation of my own power and agency.

Rebekah Frank


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Born 1977, Anchorage, Alaska, USA Education

2012 M.F.A in Metalsmithing, Cranbrook Academy of Art, Bloomfield Hills, Michigan 2010 B.F.A in Studio Art, Metals, summa cum-laude, Texas State University—San Marcos, San Marcos, Texas

Select Exhibitions

2012 Galerie Louise Smit, Object Rotterdam, Rotterdam, the Netherlands Espace Solidor, Mirror, Mirror, Cagnes-sur-Mer, France Galerie Louise Smit, COLLECT, London, Great Britain Cranbrook Art Museum, 2012 Graduate Degree Exhibition of Cranbrook Academy of Art, Bloomfield Hills, Michigan Velvet da Vinci, Mirror, Mirror, San Francisco, California 2011 Sculptural Objects and Functional Art (SOFA), Monomater, Chicago, Illinois Forum Gallery, Gallivant, Portrait Show and A Romance of Many Dimensions, Bloomfield Hills, Michigan Galerie Louise Smit, 25th Anniversary Exhibition, Amsterdam, the Netherlands Fire House Gallery, Drawn Down, Del Rio, Texas Austin City Hall, The People’s Gallery Annual Exhibition, Austin, Texas 2010 Butter Project, Framework, Royal Oaks, Michigan Houston Center for Contemporary Craft, CraftTexas 2010, Houston, Texas Schroeder Gallery, Sculpture Intersection, San Antonio, Texas Houston Museum of Fine Art, Exhibition in Motion, Houston, Texas Houston Center of Contemporary Craft, Iron: Forged, Tempered and Quenched. Houston, Texas The Cole Center @ the Old Opera House, Refined VI: Back to Basics. Nacogdoches, Texas Texas State University, San Marcos Senior Show, We Need to Talk. San Marcos, Texas 2009 Philadelphia Museum of Fine Art, Jewelry in Motion, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 2008 Joann Cole Mitte Gallery I and II, Texas State University Student Annual Exhibition, San Marcos, Texas


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2005

Pearl Fincher Museum, Metal Worked, Spring, Texas Savannah College of Art and Design, Surge and Crest, Savannah, Georgia Houston Center for Contemporary Craft, AnvilArt, Houston, Texas

Grants & Awards 2012 Special Director’s Award, Cranbrook Academy of Art Nominated for the Museum Purchase Award, Cranbrook Academy of Art Finlandia Foundation Grant Oxbow Merit Scholarship 2011 Cranbrook Academy of Art Merit Scholarship Robert C. Larson Art, Architecture & Design Venture and Travel Grant SNAG Juror’s Choice Award, State of Flux 2010 Haystack Mountain School of Crafts, Technical Assistant Scholarship Society of North American Goldsmiths (SNAG) Educational Endowment Scholarship Steven R Gregg Endowed Presidential Scholarship, TSU—SM 2009 Applewhite Scholarship, TSU Visual Arts Scholarship, Parent’s Association Scholarship, University Honors Scholarship, Fine Arts/ Mass Communications Scholarship, TSU—SM 2008 Women’s Jewelry Association Scholarship 2007 Advancement for Women in Higher Education (AWHE) 2000 Fund for the Improvement of Post Secondary Education (FIPSE) Grant to attend the Handwerkskammer in Koblenz, Germany.

Residencies 2012 2011

Talcott Jewelry Residency, Tieton, Washington Galerie Rantapaja through the Saaima University of Applied Science, Department of Stonework and Metalsmithing Lappenranta, Finland

Collections

Maxine and Stuart Frankel Foundation Houston Airport System (HAS) Collection Private Collection of Namita Gumpta Wiggers


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The most beautiful bridge in the world, so pure, so resolute, so regular that here, finally, steel architecture seems to laugh. -Le Corbusier


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71 Handpiece, Experimental Form Series 2010 Steel Private Collection of Jovencio de la Paz

Simple Necklace 2010 Steel

Forms, Experimental Form Series 2010 Steel, wood, silver Private Collection of Jovencio de la Paz

Simple Necklace 2010 Steel

Fuller, Experimental Form Series 2010 Steel Private Collection of Jovencio de la Paz

After Manders 2010 Steel Juror’s Choice Award, SNAG

Cut, Experimental Form Series 2010 Steel Private Collection of Jovencio de la Paz

Cloven, Forged Series 2011 Steel, iron Private Collection of Namita Gupta Wiggers

Twist, Experimental Form Series 2010 Steel Private Collection of Jovencio de la Paz

Shell, Forged Series 2011 Steel, iron

Simple Necklace 2010 Steel Private Collection of Stacy Jo Scott

Sawblades, Forged Series 2011 Steel, iron

Simple Necklace 2010 Steel

Rust Rhyme Series Steel, copper, iron filings 2011 Collaborative project with Iris Eichenberg

Simple Necklace 2010 Steel

Rust Rhyme Series Steel, copper, iron filings 2011 Collaborative project with Iris Eichenberg


72 Rust Rhyme Series Steel, copper, iron filings 2011 Collaborative project with Iris Eichenberg

Untitled from the Rectangle Series 2012 Steel

Rust Rhyme Series Steel, copper, iron filings 2011 Collaborative project with Iris Eichenberg

Untitled from the Rectangle Series 2012 Steel

2nd Year Review Presentation 2011 Various materials

Untitled from the Rectangle Series 2012 Steel

2nd Year Review Presentation 2011 Various materials

Thesis Exhibition 2012 Steel Cranbrook Museum of Art

Untitled, Exhibition View 2011 Steel Private Collection of Noemie Doge

Thesis Exhibition 2012 Steel Cranbrook Museum of Art

Untitled, Exhibition View 2011 Steel Private Collection of Noemie Doge

Untitled from the Armature Series 2012 Steel

Collection of Rectangle Series Necklaces 2012 Steel

Untitled from the Armature Series 2012 Steel

Untitled from the Rectangle Series 2012 Steel

Untitled from the Armature Series 2012 Steel


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Untitled from the Armature Series 2012 Steel

Untitled 2012 Steel

Untitled 2012 Steel, copper, 18 kt gold solder


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Rebekah Frank  

2012 MFA Thesis from Cranbrook Academy of Art Metalsmithing under Iris Eichenberg