My work is a continuing investigation of the ways wearable objects interact with the surface of the body. My work is created in the digital environment using Computer Aided Design, or CAD. When the creating process is complete within a CAD modeling application my objects are realized tangibly though the use of Rapid Prototyping, or 3D Printing. Rapid prototyping involves various computer-controlled machines that translate data into tangible objects. The objects are built layer by layer in various plastics and photosensitive resins.
Ongoing Investigations (2017-)
When my Gram, Betty Ambrow, died she left me her old writing desk. I knew I’d be getting it because when I was little she stuck a piece of masking tape with my name on it under it. Clarity was important to Gram and so were her things.
On a baseball stadium road trip my then boyfriend, now husband, and I hung out with Gram at her house. She was living on her own in perfect health yet she saw my having driven there as an opportunity to pass down some very special things.
I left St. Louis with four shoe boxes full of jewelry. Gram knew I was an artist and jeweler and she needed me to have these pieces. At the time it felt strange and scary because it forced me to think about my Gram not being around. She died in 2008.
365 Grams is a photo documentation project that captures me wearing my Gram’s jewelry every day for year. I wear these pieces to give them the respect and attention they deserve so that some day soon I can redefine, repurpose, and react to them in my own studio practice. You go Gram, love Becca.
I am also currently engaged in long term ideation in preparation for three bodies of work that will eventually populate a layered graphic timeline, or timelines, when installed.
My plan is to follow the “lives” of people, places, and things.
Through these new objects I will celebrate the surprisingly diverse occupations my parents’ have held, remember and the now closed Meyer Jonasson Co. department store in Altoona Pennsylvania, and provide a second life to defunct, abandoned, shoemaking tools. While these three lines of inquiry have very little in common I am working on them all at the same time, in parallel, with the intent of bringing them all into view simultaneously.
When milestones overlap I will seek to create hybrid histories in those new spaces.
Trial Balloons (2015)
trial balloon, noun
An idea or a plan advanced tentatively to test the reactions of other people.
I can distinctly remember silently judging colleagues who arrived late to meetings, missed deadlines, and seemingly reducing their research activity --because they had kids. My pre-parent self could not reconcile how children could possibly cause such a shift. I apologize. Fast forward to my current mom-of-two-small-children-self and now I completely get it. My kids, 4 and 1, are obsessed with balloons. Balloons at parties, grocery store check out lines, tied to real estate open house signs…all balloons. Trial Balloons is a collection of jewelry about my kids and launches a new kind of practice for me as an artist and Mom.
Spheres and Spools (2012-2013)
This work combines rapid prototyped plastic objects and traditional fiber based materials in continued efforts to redefine contemporary wearable objects. In these new works materials like string, thread, and twine are wrapped and knotted around the plastic forms. The resulting pieces serve to juxtapose old and new with investigations into layer, texture, color, and repetition. Mostly formal experimentations with design and composition these pieces represent a strong break from my more narrative based work. In many ways they are sketches and have allowed me to set a foundation for more in depth investigations resulting in more complicated and detailed pieces.
Age of Bears and Other Self Portraits (2009-2012)
The work included in Age of Bears, a collection of non-representational self-portraits, was inspired by a 2005 trip where a friend and I spent three days canoeing and camping with an environmental group in Central Pennsylvania. In the evenings we were treated to lectures on local wildlife, history, and culture. It was at one of those lectures that I learned about the black bear population in and around my region. The science and politics that go into managing these bears, as people continue to encroach and sprawl into their natural habitats, lead into a description of how bears are monitored, tagged, and studied. While the presenter spent only a few minutes on the subject of cementum age analysis, the microscopic counting of annual deposits formed on bear teeth; the description and imagery that defined this process left a lasting impression.
I immediately connected cementum age analysis to rapid prototyping, the layered object manufacturing process I use to realize my work tangibly. In bears the dark stained calcium-based layers formed on their teeth during hibernation, which are then counted to determine age, are called annulus. Layers are also formed, with numerous plastics and resins, during form generation in rapid prototyping. In rapid prototyping layers represent time, with each layer being a fraction of the whole object. The smaller the object the less time it takes to build, or grow. In bears, one layer equals a year of life and thus the fewer layers that are visible the younger the animal. One of the world’s foremost experts in cementum age analysis, Gary Matson of Matson Labs, compares the cementum age analysis process to the formation of concentric rings in trees. In rapid prototyping, especially in the fused deposition modeling process, the layers are visible throughout the object and can be seen with the naked eye. The layers found in bear teeth can only be seen once exposed through cross-sectional slicing, dying, and by aid of a microscope. In addition, information such as female reproductive history can be determined from the characteristics of the liner elements seen inside the animal’s teeth. All of these parallels have perpetuated the repetitive linear form language seen in this ongoing series.
Baseball in Three Parts (2008)
Dead Cardinals for Dad
Because of my father's passion for baseball and more specifically for the St. Louis Cardinals, I grew up thinking that there was one team in all of baseball. Similar to the Harlem Globetrotters, an entertainment/performance based basketball team; I was convinced that the Cardinals were the team and that opponents were dreamt up to challenge them. In my childhood, the Cardinals always won. When we moved from the mid-west to a suburb of Philadelphia that I learned there were other teams in baseball, like the Philadelphia Phillies. One day when I was about 10 my father came home from work and was speaking with my mother in the kitchen.
He relayed to her that his co-workers had left a dead cardinal on his desk that morning, a symbolic gesture of a significant Cardinals loss to the Phillies the night before. I heard every single word and could not have been more horrified. My father left the story in the kitchen that evening but my imagination took over. Since then when I think of that story I see three or four business suit clad car dealers trying to net a bright red cardinal somewhere in a grassy area bordering the car lot. I have always wondered how they killed that poor bird.
Not all baseball fields are the same; in fact the only distances that are regulated are those between the bases and from the pitcher's mound to home plate. The distances to the fences are different in each park, as are the shapes that the outfield walls take.
These astonishingly asymmetric borders often reflect much more than a venue to play baseball in. They often define distinct advantages and disadvantages to offense and defense. There are "hitter friendly parks" where homeruns come often and with great distance. And then there are just the opposite, where "long balls" are rarely seen.
I find it interesting that in a sport where statistics, averages, percentages, and the like are so important that the field of play is not constant. To reflect this contradictory idea I turn to material: mirrored acrylic to show the individuality of the wearer, or player, and wood grain contact paper to speak to the hitter's tool, the baseball bat.
The Fielding bracelets are made possible though the significant baseball park research of Andrew Clem and the information he shares on his website: www.andrewclem.com
The rivalries that exist between baseball cities and teams is an amazing thing. Ask people to back a political candidate or support low-cost healthcare with such zeal. It is the suspension of disbelief, baseball, a way of rooting for the little guy and feeling a part of history.
Though with all of its cheering and athleticism baseball is no stranger to controversy. Each baseball generation has a black mark that reflects many societal issues at large. The shadow hanging over the game now comes in the form of performance enhancing drugs.
Baseball players and drug usage were the main event of a 2005 Congressional inquiry that revealed nothing and everything. George W. Bush spent precious moments of his 2004 state of the union address to speak to drug usage in professional sports. Indictments, tell-all books, and a constant stream of media inform us that players, already talented and well-regarded players, are "juicing."
The three bracelets in the Mourning series respond to a spectrum of drug usage in baseball.
Jose Canseco admitted to his usage of performance enhancing drugs, after his retirement, and named numerous other players who he witnessed doing the same. His autograph is accompanied by the ironic nickname "The Chemist" a clear indication of his drug experimentations while playing the game.
Barry Bonds, the current single season homerun record holder, pleaded innocent to the accusations that he lied to a grand jury about using performance-enhancing drugs. He faces federal prison if convicted of his 15 felonies.
Roger Clemens is a highly respected pitcher who has been accused of using as well. He is on the end of the spectrum, having been accused drug use by his former personal trainer, Celemens denies ever knowingly using.
The act of dissecting valuable autographed baseballs and repurposing their skins into bracelets containing form language of mourning dress reflects my opinions of the damage these recent activities have done to baseball.
Army Green Laundry & Little Reminders (2006)
Army Green Laundry and Little Reminders continue political observations begun in Army Green Orchids. In these pieces I bring attention to major issues surrounding our political presence abroad. Most Americans are not capable of describing the geographical locations of some of the countries our military currently occupies or the reasons why we are in a war that has raged on longer than World War II, yet we are very quick to talk about these things in friendly conversation. There are new terms in the chit-chat lexicon today and they are thrown around too easily without much consideration as to what they actually mean. In Army Green Laundry I represent those subjects, airing them out on a clothesline in the sun.
Little Reminders serve as just that. They are easily wearable brooches that swing as you move reminding you, and those around you, of small things we can do to change our political landscape in productive ways.
Army Green Orchids (2005-2006)
The series Army Green Orchids consists of 18 brooches that redefine the corsage inspired by early botanical illustrations. The series brings awareness to the practices surrounding commercially cultivated flowers and the increasing number of American military casualties in Iraq. Flowers have been worn on garments and in the hair since ancient Greece. Over time they have signified achievement, adornment, class, mourning, celebration, marital status, and wealth. Today corsages are sold for special occasions such as weddings, formal dances, and holidays; wearing flowers has evolved into a business. The preciousness of the corsage as self-expression has been watered-down with the onset of overnight delivery. Flowers are ordered, not picked, they are tinted, dipped, glued, sliced, and submerged in a long list of preservatives. Our society has created the mass produced flower. In parallel, as a nation, we have grown accustomed to the growing casualty count in Iraq. Approximately 3195 American soldiers (and possibly hundreds of thousands local civilians) have been killed as of March 13, 2007. I am unable to reconcile the need for these deaths and find it hard to imagine that each individual has been given the reverence or attention they deserve. To bring attention to the preciousness lost in the overwhelming numbers I turn to color. “Army” green speaks to military activity in general but also to the familiar toy soldier, sold in bags by the millions. In many ways, like our commercialized flowers, we have created the mass produced soldier.
Other Works (2005-2006)
The Kjell Meling Bowl
Inspired by the pond on the Penn State Altoona campus, home to the many ducks that Kjell Meling (former Associate Dean) held so dear, the forms within the bowl represent the movement and fluidity of water. These characteristics echo the energy and organic qualities found within the Arts and Humanities.
Created for the annual Society of North American Goldsmiths Conference “Swap”, 75 copies of the Bravery pendant, and the commentary on the Middle Eastern conflict contained within, was distributed to members of the jewelry field. The neckpiece, resembling testicles, was fabricated in army green ABS plastic. Bravery is the first of many politically driven pieces in the work seen between 2002 and 2007.
The Shorthand Series (2004-2005)
The Shorthand Series is a group of objects that supply the beginnings of a narrative, while subtly commenting on how I create my work. Directly inspired by the defunct stenography language of Gregg Shorthand, the brooches are three-dimensional versions of two-dimensional shorthand outlines. In choosing words that evoke the emotions of romantic relationships, I want the viewer to imagine a time or event in their life when such words were relevant. In taking two-dimensional language and giving it three-dimensional form I attempt to capture the movement and energy created in the act of mark making. By selecting a language at one time considered industry standard in its efficiency I seek to compare and contrast to the technology I employ in my work. Creating within three-dimensional virtual space and producing tangible versions of the objects through various rapid prototyping processes challenge the history-laden ideals of craft. The medium I choose to work in is seen by many as a shortcut, when in essence it is –like Gregg Shorthand—a language.
Other Works 2002-2003
The relationship between my brooches and the body is one of an echo. Through form-language and material choice I reiterate the shape and surface of bone, muscle, and ligament. I wish to communicate a growth or appendage that has developed from beneath the skin. While drawing inspiration from the female body, it is my intention to create hybrid organic forms that resist direct identification. Eliminating the traditional need of clothing as the attaching surface I ask the viewer/wearer to see the brooch in the context of the naked female form. When worn, a dramatic tension is created as brooches are placed intimately on the skin, adhering and adapting to the surfaces of the body.