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. . . M E R C U R I A L

S I L E N C E . . .

Caroline Gore


. . . M E R C U R I A L

S I L E N C E . . .

Caroline Gore

introduc tion   C. James Meyer essays   Kerianne Quick   Susie J. Silbert

Western Michigan University Rose Netzorg and James Wilfrid Kerr Permanent Collection Gallery Kalamazoo, mi January 9 – February 14, 2014


SHIFT: Contemporary Makers that Define, Expand and Contradict the Field of Art Jewelry In conjunction with ZOOM: Examining the Future of Craft Symposium Indiana University Grunwald Gallery of Art Bloomington, in October 17 – November 22, 2013 Western Michigan University Rose Netzorg and James Wilfrid Kerr Permanent Collection Gallery Kalamazoo, mi January 9 – February 14, 2014 Urban Institute for Contemporary Arts Race Street Gallery Grand Rapids, mi February 28 – April 27, 2014 Art Direction: Nick Kuder Design: Aaron Cooper, Carlene Baker The Design Center, Frostic School of Art, Western Michigan University Exhibition photography: Mary Whalen Additional photography: Caroline Gore Copyright © 2014 Caroline Gore and respective contributors. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced in any form or by any means. isbn 978-0-615-99406-2


... in loving memory of Marshall Randolph Gore Jr. & Mary Nelson Gore ...


Introduction In this latest body of work, …mercurial silence…, Caroline Gore delves into the world of personal loss and how one processes grief… not a light subject. Yet, it is one we universally encounter. In today’s society we have become hardened to ever-present violence and death: civil unrest, violent movies, accidental plane and car crashes, terrorism in foreign places. In some instances, there may be the death of someone famous or well loved by society followed by an outpouring of personal mementos… a photo, flowers or stuffed animals. But this lasts only until the next newsworthy event comes along. When that event becomes personal, we have to find other ways to process our loss and how effectively we accomplish this, or fail to, can have a lasting effect on us. In …mercurial silence…, Caroline has taken objects that she inherited and repurposed them into sculpture. While this may at first seem heretical, the resultant objects contain the spiritual energy of both the deceased and the maker. She has created work that is both haunting and beautiful at the same time. For me, seeing the exhibition was a powerful experience. The exhibition is mercurial in the sense that it is eloquent, inventive and a bit thievish, as was Mercury. I found myself being pulled in different directions. On the one hand there was the enjoyment… the shadows created by the sculpture protruding from the wall, the black walls with an ambulating gold line that drew one around the room, and an appreciation of how the objects were impeccably crafted, be they sewn dresses, wood boxes,

photos or jet beads the artist sensitively altered. Along with that enjoyment came introspection from the internal recollections of my own losses: the expected elderly grandparents or parents, and more poignantly, a parent when I was still quite young, as well as friends and colleagues who passed before their time. As I look at contemporary art (be it craft, sculpture, photography or any other label one might ascribe) there are very few artists who can make work that has a sound conceptual basis, a sensitive aesthetic and is appropriately made. Caroline Gore’s work succeeds on all of these levels. I trust you will revel in the experience. C. James Meyer, Professor Emeritus School of the Arts Virginia Commonwealth University Richmond, va


I stopped. He responded with four words, “emptiness transforms personal landscape.� The words sunk deep into my chest.


The exhibition …mercurial silence… is the culmination of an investigation of how grief and loss manifest in society. Comparative meanings were sought through multidisciplinary research of historical jewelry, Roman myth, and materials and objects as they relate to commonalities across human experience. Memorializing tragic events through leaving objects and ephemera at sites of violence and tragedy is now pervasive: in doing so we attempt to process what has happened, honor victims, and give some physical form to loss. However this was not the case 30 years ago — we tended to walk away from the actual site and perhaps more directly towards one another. Looking closer at objects in relation to personal losses - how does one thoughtfully negotiate possessions of loved ones received through inheritance? As in processing grief there is no clear answer, instead we search our lived experience as it reveals itself over time through remembering and forgetting. Objects we have lived with, that others have chosen and lived with, are often murky and become laden with a multitude of meaning. Transformation of these objects, while at first may seem an act of violence in itself, offers to make the negotiation physical — despite the persistence of grief continually marking and changing the interior of ourselves. Caroline Gore Kalamazoo, mi August, 2013


The Burden of Objects A silent chorus sprouts from black painted walls, but these a physical intimacy. It is an idea in which something that singers are furniture parts culled from inherited objects. is owned, a belonging, becomes part of us and likewise the These recognizable legs also dotted my own grandparent’s owner becomes part of the object. If our objects are worthy house. While they are redolent, they are also strange as they of being given, the inherited object is passed on to grateful slither from the walls like the hair of Medusa. Suddenly the or sometimes indifferent heirs. The inherited object does not bulbous heads personify the throats of singers, straining appear to its new owner as only an object of function or beauty, toward the ceiling, pushing their inaudible voices nowhere; but as that which belonged to a specific other. These things peering blindly into space. With new brass fittings and caps are unique in their standing as having once belonged. They that protrude as exaggerated ferrules, Caroline Gore’s chorus are containers of the memory of those who possessed them. lifts with the posture of musical instruments, as if to intone, Possessed by the ghosts of our great-aunts and grandfathers, expressing the memory of their former function. imbrued by the notion of ownership, the object becomes I am sure I once used an ottoman with the same legs, atop the only lasting physical remnant of life. Caroline Gore’s a brocade pile carpet as my dollhouse. This same ottoman …mercurial silence… traces this past and present, and the I would later reluctantly inherit with its paired chair, a full possibility for material to convey the intangibilities of living set of Mark Twain Volumes (the 1906 Colliers Authorized and loss. She explores the practice of memorializing flesh with Uniform Addition), and the bric-a-brac of two cultures and material, emotion made palpable via objects reconstructed three generations. This onerous object, both loved and loathed, from inherited objects, and traditional materials of mourning. moved with me hundreds and then thousands of miles, backWhile other systems of value may exist simultaneously and-forth, until I finally gave it up. What compels us to have within an object, the familial, deeply evocative, personal love, feel responsibility or guilt toward the inanimate? How connection to objects cannot be quantified in the same way are those feelings magnified by grief? as value based on exchange. If, by object, we can connect Through ownership, the essence of a person can stain an to someone we have lost through remembering or shared object. We gather things that are worthy of our attention, ma- ownership, the sentimental value can weigh in as blessing or terially valuable, beautifully made, highly functional, markers burden. We treat these objects as proxies, as if we are addressof occasions. We absentmindedly endow these objects with ing the person rather than an object they once possessed. The familial memory and simply through ownership a shift in inherited object becomes frozen in time as preservation is value occurs. While intimate, ownership is not necessarily what is expected, alteration is frowned upon and to jettison

revenir, performed tintype · 5 × 7 inches in collaboration with Mary Whalen


is almost unthinkable. With my own inherited objects, I realized that I was no longer owner — but owned myself by a wood and fabric effigy of my grandmother shaped as a Queen Anne style chair and ottoman. Gore’s process of dismantle and reconstruct calls for a re-examination of the sanctity of these loaded objects. While it is easy to look at this act as destruction, this is reformation, an emotional resurrection. These objects are excavations and remanifestations of the presence of memory. They are a response to the stages and states of grief through the objects that are left behind. collide pairs the inherited and the new, the burdensome coupled with the chosen. Just as the past is irrevocably the foundation of the present, one form, rosewood reshaped into a table, is the supporting structure for the other. Is the enormous strand of jet beads an incarnation of the artist herself, leaning and laying heavily on her familial past? Or is it a tangible expression of the weight of sorrow? As monumental nod to the historical connection between jet and mourning, the large beads are fashioned into a jewel of significant scale, one that literally swallows the wearer. We see this enacted in collide, performed in three parts. Framed in brushed brass, the series of tintypes made in collaboration with photographer Mary Whalen, evoke both the familiar and strange, the self and the other. Textured by the ghostly light of the tintype process and the posture of the sitter, Gore herself, the images are reminiscent of the 19th century portraits of Native American tribespeople by Edward S.

Curtis 1. Aesthetically not of this time or culture, Gore and Whalen use a recognizable but distant language to distill the subject and in turn push forward the emotional potency of the image. As Gore wraps herself in the strand of jet and black spinel beads, the captured images call to mind prayer beads, shackles, even hooding used to transport or torture prisoners. These associations, ranging from paying penance, paralyzing dread, counting time, and physical or emotional isolation, are direct visualizations of the emotional states that are experienced with loss. The work revenir, for Niobe, invokes the symbol of ceaseless and untenable mourning. In Greek myth, Apollo and Artemis slaughter the fourteen children, seven sons and seven daughters, of Niobe, a crushing retaliation for an arrogant statement against the gods. ‘revenir’, suggests a return, as if to come back to a related state of being and points to her endless cycle of devastating guilt. But it also evokes the idea that in death we return to a familiar state. “Dust thou art, and unto dust thou shalt return.” 2 The rosewood chest, containing seven identical silk dresses — one for each daughter lost — acts as a small tomb for these frail fabric corpses. Ashes to ashes. Strands of hematite beads pour from two brass spouts, positioned like the trace of a harness spanning the space between horse and load, punctuated by a bit of jet beads. Like in Aesop’s The Bundle of Sticks, the weight cannot be moved by the single strand, but only by the collective mass of plied silk and beads as “union gives strength.” 3 It is as if the box could be dragged, 1 curtis.library.northwestern.edu 2 Genesis 3:19 3 www.bartleby.com/17/1/72.html


suggesting a ball and chain or significant encumbrance that could be likened to the immeasurable sadness of a mother whose children are taken. Simultaneously, the rosewood box performs an act long associated with this type of furniture object: to protect precious things, delicate silks, heirlooms. Perhaps taking cues from the hope or dowry chests common in western cultures, the intangible contents can be read as the hopes of a mother for a daughter, or the expectations that lay upon a young woman who is to be married. In revenir, performed, again in collaboration with photographer Mary Whalen, the silk dresses are animated through a series of black glass ambrotypes. But animated seems the wrong word as the delicate silk dresses become solid, and almost lead-like, as if they are forced to the ground like the weight of a slain body. They seem twisted and crushed by the camera lens, concretized into image. The power of ‌mercurial silence‌ lies not only in the fine making and the somber subject, but likewise in the materials themselves. With quiet emphasis placed on the origin of the rosewood, it is effectively loaded with the potency of an unknown, inaccessible past life. And of the original form, is it adulteration or transfiguration? It cannot be either, simply because the new form is not about the presumable functionality of its previous form, but is resurrected for a new purpose. As the form itself is transmuted, function is transformed. From an object of use, to an object of contemplation, they are no longer their former selves but tangible images of emotional

anguish. Focus is drawn to the object as evidence of its own alteration and ultimate transcendence. Like a shroud over a corset — the strict rules of the Victorian mourning ideal are simultaneously enacted and questioned with traditional material, unexpected elemental combinations, and furtive logic. The work is a reflection of the act and futility of remembering. It is the longing to capture an amorphous past made manifest. As renewed memory, the works are shadows of invented objects, captured. They simultaneously embody presence and absence, the familiar yet unidentifiable. They speak not only to the burden we carry in mourning, but also that which is invested in and carried by objects themselves. Subtly, Gore suggests that loss is transformative. It whittles away bits of us for better and for worse. And like a mercurial silence, the work softly shouts. Kerianne Quick, Visiting Assistant Professor suny New Paltz Kingston, ny


William Woollett,
Niobe, 1761, Engraving · 19 × 23 ¹³⁄₁₆ inches Harvard Art Museums/Fogg Museum, Gift of the heirs of Mrs. Mary Hemenway, M884 Imaging Department © President and Fellows of Harvard College


Mourning Site In installations, space is expanded, fractured, and can even extend beyond the measurable limits of the room. 1 [Installations] can produce a resonance from many pasts in a single present. 2 — Marina Pugliesi, Ephemeral Monuments In her recent project …mercurial silence…, Caroline Gore capitalizes on the fracturing of time and space that Pugliesi refers to as a vehicle to explore the world-shattering effects of mourning. In loss, the mourner is suspended in the oblivion of grief—he or she exists outside the normal realms of culture—in much the same way installation manipulates, inverts, and rearranges the relationship between the room and the edifice that contains it. Layering referents to distinct chronologies through her use of nineteenth century mourning materials of jet, spinel, and tintypes, the wood from an inherited dining set, and the ancient myth of Niobe, Gore creates the persistent present of deep mourning. Gore’s installation unfolds from loss’s debilitating center. Entering into …mercurial silence…’s tomb-like silty-ness, the viewer is transported into the timeless depths of bereavement. In this impenetrable fog of pain, chronology dissolves into the void of silence and the churning sea of emotion. Along the walls, a golden thread, undulating like a mountainous horizon or the rise and fall of a heart monitor, acts 1 Marina Pugliese and Barbara Ferriani, eds., Ephemeral Monuments: History and Conservation of Installation Art (Los Angeles: Getty Conservation Institute, 2013), 69. 2 Ibid., 71.

as a safety line tethering visitors within the visible bounds of remembrance. Interspersed around it are ethereal tintypes. Some, framed in brass haloes, depict a female character as a mournful stand-in for the viewer. These images refer back in subject and title to two sets of wood and stone objects set across the floor. These furniture-like forms, recomposed from the wood of a dining set the artist inherited, host what appear to be props for the act of lamentation: a long strand of hand-carved jet and spinel, lengths of watery hematite tied with leather, seven concealed, shroud-like silk dresses. The first, collide, is a low, unornamented table in beautiful oiled cherry with dimensions that recall an altar, supporting an improbably large tangle of gently faceted black jet beads punctuated by spinel. The strand’s ends stretch as if in invitation to count, the mass of stones itself bringing to mind those placed on graves in remembrance. Nearby, streams of hematite pour out of a cantilevered, wheeled chest in revenir, for Niobe. Hidden under doors that slice bilaterally across its lid are seven silk dresses that invoke the enormous loss


endured by the piece’s mythological namesake — all of Niobe’s daughters in exchange for her hubris; its title a reminder of how we return to grief, carry it with us even when we believe it is safely packed away. Watchful above them all are two groupings of inverted dining table and chair legs crowned with plugs of brass, the gentle sweep of chorus’s cabriolet swaying in silent companionship to the mourner. Like stations in a secular Via Dolorosa, these pieces imply ritual action, an impulse underscored by the tintypes documenting them ‘performed.’ In the haloed views of collide, performed in three successions the snake of jet takes on a life of its own, wrapping the mourner’s head, hands, and neck in its thick veil of grief. Its suffocating physicality recalls Roland Barthes’ description in Mourning Diary, “Suffering like a stone… / (around my neck, / deep inside me).”3 Moving from left to right, the images show the mourner wrestling with her grief. In the first, she is completely overcome, the menacing strand constricting her face, her hands raised as if in quizzical exploration. In the next, she begins to grapple with her situation. All that is visible is her hands grasping the beads in her lap, but it is implied that she has extricated them from her face. In the final image, we see the mourner in profile. Still within the throws of grief, she has made her peace with her predicament. Anguish remains thick about her, binding her hands, but now she bears her interior torment as a necklace and muff, badges that recall the Victorian custom of wearing matte jet during the deepest part of mourning. 3 Roland Barthes, Mourning Diary: October 26, 1977-September 15, 1979 1st American ed. (New York: Hill and Wang, 2010), 106.

Gore’s use of photography works back on her objects, activating the viewer’s mirror neurons and imploring them to imagine themselves undertaking similar action. Seeing the process of grief, we are encouraged not to be voyeurs, but rather to allow ourselves to viscerally experience the agony of loss. And while Gore has reproduced this oblivion with perfect accuracy, her objective seems not to be to catapult the viewer unprepared into the chasm of mourning, but rather to present an environment in which to experience and move through this most devastating emotion. Gore used a similar methodology in her series site: interventions and observations (2006 – 2010). Designed to reveal unexpected moments of beauty in the surrounding world, this series consisted of brooches, rings, and necklaces whose forms, materials, and coloration referred to details excerpted from photographs of specific locations the artist lived, visited and selected to engage with. Like guided meditations on the process of looking and seeing, Gore installed the jewelry pieces chest level next to corresponding photographs of the site from which they were drawn. Jewelry’s close association to the body compels viewers to envision themselves within the landscapes she chose. This works through a visual process of transference where the jewelry object causes the viewer to imagine themselves wearing the item and by extension, to locate themselves within the site. It also works physically through donning the items. In this instance, the wearer is physically adorned with the memory of place making visible


site: interventions and observations Lawndale Art Center, Houston tx

the residue of experience we all carry. …mercurial silence… extends that process. However, where site: interventions and observations documents tangible, discrete places, mourning and grief are all encompassing. They are simply too big and too indefinite to encapsulate in a limited process of looking and wearing. Mourning must be entered, submitted to, felt. Knowing this, Gore has constructed …mercurial silence… as a site-less sepulcher of loss as transient and democratic as grief itself. A space outside of space, outfitted with objects of agony, Gore’s installation offers itself as an opportunity to lessen the burden of pain in each of the venues in which it is erected. As if it were imploring its visitors to come back, revenir to their loss, unpack their sorrowful baggage, be deluged by its anguish and leave transformed. Susie J. Silbert, curator and art historian Brooklyn, ny


abbreviated curriculum vitae Education

2009 Opere Jewellery School · Ravenstein, The Netherlands 2001 Master of Fine Arts, East Carolina University · Greenville, nc 1998 Bachelor of Fine Arts, Cum Laude, Virginia Commonwealth University · Richmond, va

Public Collections

2014 Racine Art Museum · Racine, wi 2010 Museum of Fine Arts, Houston · Houston, tx 2008 Bemis Center for Contemporary Art · Omaha, ne 2007 Richmond Center for Visual Arts, Frostic School of Art, Western Michigan University · Kalamazoo, mi

Select Exhibitions Since 2009

2014 The jewelry within a …mercurial silence… (solo), Velvet da Vinci · San Francisco, ca Double Take: Artists Respond to the Collection, Kalamazoo Institute of Arts · Kalamazoo, mi …mercurial silence… (solo), Urban Institute for Contemporary Art · Grand Rapids, mi Resonance (solo), Urban Institute for Contemporary Art · Grand Rapids, mi Light of the Moon, Arrowmont School of Arts and Crafts · Gatinberg, tn …mercurial silence… (solo), Richmond Center for Visual Arts, Western Michigan University · Kalamazoo, mi Resonance (solo), Epic Center, Greater Kalamazoo Arts Council · Kalamazoo, mi 2013 Siamese Connection (Jurors Choice Award 1st), Brooklyn Metal Works · Brooklyn, ny Shift: Contemporary Makers That Define, Expand and Contradict The Field of Art Jewelry, Henry Radford Hope School of Fine Arts, Indiana University · Bloomington, in Au Courant: A Contemporary Earring Exhibition, J. Cotter Gallery · Beaver Creek & Vail, co 2012 Badges & Buttons, Waistcoats & Vests (curated by Robert Ebendorf and Elizabeth Turrell), Velvet da Vinci · San Francisco, ca Covet, Sienna Gallery · Lenox, ma


Design Miami/Basel, The Global Forum for Design (represented by Ornamentum) · Basel, Switzerland Naturel | Artificiel (curated by Luzia Vogt), Galerie Noel Guyomarc’h Bijoux et Objets Contemporains · Montréal, Québec, Canada Covet (preview), SOFA New York (represented by Sienna Gallery) · New York, ny SOFA New York (represented by Ornamentum) · New York, ny, Town & Country: Jewelry Artists Respond to the Synthetic and Natural World (in conjunction with SCAD style), Savannah College of Art and Design Pinnacle Gallery · Savannah, ga The Art of Influence, Gray Gallery, East Carolina University · Greenville, nc 2011 Design Miami/Basel, The Global Forum for Design (represented by Ornamentum) · Miami, fl SOFA Chicago (featured artist, represented by Ornamentum) · Chicago, il Signs of Life, Facèré Jewelry Art Gallery · Seattle, wa SOFA New York (represented by Ornamentum) · New York, ny, Wearable Ceramics: Jewelry by International Artists, Pewabic Pottery · Detroit, mi 2010 site: interventions, observations & simulations (solo, in conjunction with the Society of North American Goldsmiths conference) Lawndale Art Center · Houston, tx SOFA Chicago (represented by Ornamentum) · Chicago, il SOFA New York (represented by Ornamentum) · New York, ny Equilibrium: Body as Site, Joann Cole Mitte Building, Texas State University · San Marcos, tx 2009 Simulations (solo), Richmond Center for Visual Arts, Western Michigan University · Kalamazoo, mi Caroline Gore (solo), Urban Institute for Contemporary Art · Grand Rapids, mi SOFA Chicago (represented by Ornamentum) · Chicago, il The Stimulus Project, SOFA Chicago (represented by Sienna Gallery) · Chicago, il Re/Thinking Design for Consumption, The Scarab Club · Detroit, mi The Stimulus Project, Sienna Gallery · Lenox, ma RE:ACTION(S) (curated by Gail M. Brown), Craft Alliance · Saint Louis, mo SOFA New York (represented by Ornamentum) · New York, ny, Equilibrium: Body as Site, Stanlee & Gerald Rubin Center for Visual Arts, The University of Texas at El Paso · El Paso, tx


collide, performed tintype, brass · 10 × 12 inches

in collaboration with Mary Whalen

collide reclaimed cherry from inherited furniture, jet, black spinel, silk, 18k gold, oxidized sterling silver table: 24½ × 49½ × 34 inches strand: 1 × 1 × 610 inches


collide, performed in three successions tintype, brass
· 10 × 12 inches each in collaboration with Mary Whalen


revenir, for Niobe reclaimed cherry from inherited furniture, brass, hematite, jet, leather, seven identical silk dresses
· 18 ¾ × 17½ × 83 inches

revenir, seven dresses performed black glass ambrotypes
· 7½ × 9½ inches each in collaboration with Mary Whalen


chorus reclaimed cherry from inherited furniture, brass dimensions of groupings variable from 46 × 24 × 12½ inches


Thank you to Western Michigan University for the incredible gift Kerianne Quick and Susie J. Silbert for writing about the of time through a sabbatical leave for academic year 2012–’13. work, Nancy Gagliano for checking that all of the i’s were Gratitude to Brad Smith for imparting the necessary skills dotted and t’s were crossed, Bruce Metcalf for questioning to transform the wood from my family’s furniture into what my hesitation as I metaphorically and emotionally kicked dirt is here in the exhibition. Thank you to: Nicholas Kuder, Paul around before getting to where I needed with the exhibition Sizer, Aaron Cooper and Carlene Baker who worked on the statement, and to all of my friends who are indeed family catalogue through The Design Center at Western Michigan both near and far, your support while making this work was University, Carlene Cilc and Douglas Hren at the Framemaker, incredibly meaningful to me as I took on the challenges and Andres Searl for assisting with the exhibition install, Don risks involved. To my mentors Robert Ebendorf and C. James Desmett for championing my work and for all of the kind Meyer for supporting the publication of this catalogue — a words during the exhibition at WMU, Alexander Paschka heartfelt thank you for believing in me right from the beginning, and Brandon Alman for assistance with the exhibition at love to you both. And finally, sincere appreciation to Mary the Urban Institute for Contemporary Arts in Grand Rapids, Whalen for our work together on the performed aspects of Michigan, John Rais for problem solving that bracket issue …mercurial silence… and our continued work ahead. even though the supported shelves were edited out — no doubt they will appear in another iteration, C. James Meyer,


...MERCURIAL SILENCE...  

Caroline Gore

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