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The Benefit
January 26, 2020

Benefit 2020 Auction Items: Jillian Moore’s ‘Fissilis’

About the Author
Deborah Kostianovsky

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Jewelry in our culture is usually merely ornamental, decorative, simply a pretty flourish to beautify the wearer. But have you ever thought of jewelry as more than that? Could it be a means for exhibiting the transgressive, the transformative? Can jewelry really capture the eye and spirit the same way a piece of art can? Could an item hanging around the neck be construed as a symbol of our culture, our collective spirit, or even embrace twenty-first century anxiety, disquiet, and confusion? There certainly is a precedent in other cultures for powerful, symbolic connotations in jewelry. In the Navajo culture, turquoise, with its oceanic colors, connects the wearer to the natural world and imbues status and good fortune. In Zulu cultures, beadwork communicates marital status and is a form of communication between sexes. In China, Jade, which has been a valuable stone for over 7,000 years, embodies the balance of yin and yang, between beauty and durability. [1] Just as these other cultures use headdresses, beads, semiprecious stones and amulets as a means for symbolism and communication, perhaps some jewelry in our own culture goes beyond mere pre-packaged beautification. Perhaps these ‘trinkets’ are actually able to express our bewilderment in a contradictory, overwhelming, image-laden world. And perhaps wearing these messages on one’s own body, unlike art that sits on a wall, makes that message even more powerful.
And Jillian Moore’s jewelry is not just your average decorative bauble. Her necklace with pendant, entitled Fissilis, made of foam, composite and epoxy resin, paint, pigment, found/altered acrylic, polymer clay, nylon, silicon-rubber, and measuring 19 x 5 x 2, is unusual, to say the least. Its title seems to convey its explosive, potentially fissured stone-like appearance, as a fissile is an element able to undergo nuclear fission, or an easily split rock. The colors are decidedly unnatural, ranging from neon green to orange, and brown, delicately mottled on its surface as if it were a natural rock. And yet, it’s clearly an organic shape, to this viewer appearing downright testicular. And oh the irony and layers of interpretation that can be extricated from the idea of a woman wearing heavy testicles on her breasts! Let me enumerate the possible interpretations: The obvious one is that women really can have balls and can act accordingly. This interpretation is priceless- so ironic, funny and delectably ingenious that it makes me want to have it. The other interpretations refer to gender fluidity, or even poking fun at the notion of the large, traditional diamond pendant.
And the fun goes even beyond the breast/testicle images. This piece conveys elements of our contradictory world–melding natural shapes with decidedly non-natural substrates and combining a cartoonish, plasticized essence (reflective of social media? of our government?) with the spirituality of natural forms and shapes. It’s a pendant yet so heavy that it almost precludes wearing. It’s unabashedly outrageous and at the same time uncannily exudes the delicately poetic and inspiring. As the artist states: “My work has been a blending of the zoological and botanical filtered through abstraction with the intention of creating wearable objects that are both familiar and uncanny… [I] desire to amplify the ambiguity, peculiarity, and otherworldly qualities in my work.” Now that’s a ballsy proposition.
[1] Jess Kadel, “What is the Meaning of Jewellery in Different Cultures?Shining Diamonds, 18 June 2016

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