Exhibit Shines a Light on JEM's Bright Past, Present and Future


Deanna Wardley poses next to her work on display at Past, Present, Future II. Photo by Bob Toy.

On the evening of Nov. 2, suite 105 at Academy of Art University’s Cannery Galleries buzzed with School of Jewelry and Metal Arts (JEM) students, faculty and guests. They mingled and munched on snacks while perusing an array of wearable and decorative art during a reception that kicked off Past, Present, Future II, the second installment of an exhibition that debuted last year. The show continues the celebration of JEM’s rich history by showcasing exceptional work from current and former students. 

“Jewelry has been part of the school for a long, long time,” said Charlene Modena, executive director of JEM. “We have this wonderful legacy and I wanted to honor that by bringing in work from the people who are part of it. Things have changed a lot in the world of art and technology, so we also wanted to show works made using lasers and 3-D printing. We teach traditional and new techniques but we’re always focused on contemporary outcomes.”

These principles are evident in the quality and variety of work from the 28 featured artists. Current students in the show include Dale Beevers and Laura Mick. An M.F.A. student, Beevers explored the juxtaposition of being weighed down by life’s pressures, and escaping them, in her striking two-in-one enamel and copper necklace, “Breaking the Chains.” The necklace can be worn as a choker that symbolizes the sensation of being restricted or as a longer, free-flowing piece that represents a lighter state of mind. 

Soon-to-be B.F.A. graduate Laura Mick explained the concept behind her trio of graceful, organic-shaped pieces: “I came up with the term ‘Inscape’ to describe the places we escape to within ourselves, whether we’re trying to get away from society or an uncomfortable situation. It’s all about this hidden depth that’s solely your own. Everything’s kind of hidden on the pieces to reflect that.”

Recent graduate Ziqin “Marsh” Min’s fresh take on a pocket watch melded copper, silver and brass with his love of vintage style and movement. Leah Aripotch, a 2012 alumna, jokingly referred to her daring bronze bag, which is shaped like a large egg with a snake coiled around it, as “the world’s heaviest purse.” But the unusual piece she created during a collaboration with a fashion student while at the Academy has earned serious praise in the art world. Her snake bag was selected from thousands of entries to be featured in the latest edition of CAST, a prestigious coffee table book. 

“I had this vision of a snake wrapping around an egg, and there being a struggle between the snake and the person who ultimately possesses the egg,” said Aripotch.


Fashion Collaboration, a series by Pei-Ling “Ann” Tsai. Photo by Bob Toy.


Drown in Colors by Hsiao Han “Lucy” Huang. Photo by Bob Toy.


Ear Cuffs, a series by Qin “Samantha” Xu. Photo by Bob Toy.


An aluminum alloy dress created by Academy instructor David Sekoll. Photo by Bob Toy.

Former students-turned JEM instructors participating in the exhibition include Killean Evans, Francesca MacKie and David Sekoll.

Evans, who graduated with a degree in sculpture in 2013 and has been teaching at the Academy ever since, made three tiny bronze and copper stacking boxes titled Contained. She created them from precisely cut square panels fastened together with the smallest of screws, then added subtle folded embellishments to the sides of the boxes. At the bottom of each box, a vivid blue-green patina adds a pleasing pop of color. According to Evans, the project represents her thought process.

 “It’s sort of a line that you follow that gets broken, changes direction, and creates new movements, emotion-wise, thought-wise,” she remarked. “There’s a play between keeping that contained or letting it show. The patina represents the inside being a little different than what you see on the outside.”

MacKie has worn many hats since graduating and becoming a JEM faculty member in 2012. Currently, she teaches mixed media jewelry as well as knitting and weaving with metal. MacKie has two pieces from her thesis project in the exhibition. 


Majesty II by Azita Mireshghi. Photo by Bob Toy.


An assortment of creations on display at Past, Present, Future II. Photo by Bob Toy.


Chase Your Own Dream by Chia Chen “Sabrina” Hsu. Photo by Bob Toy.

“I’m really inspired by the architecture of the city and how everything is kind of precariously built on cliffs,” she said of the jagged edges and straight lines that mark her rectangular aluminum sculptures. “It’s about that very precarious relationship between man and nature.”

In addition to experimenting with different types of metals to create his eye-catching aluminum alloy dress, Sekoll had to master a new art—learning how to make darts. The shimmering frock is comprised of some 6,000 metal tiles and linkages. While the dress may look heavy, it’s lighter than a sweater.

“The piece changed over time, but originally I was inspired by the tiled rooftops you see in Europe,” said Sekoll, who graduated in 2008 and now teaches industrial design, sculpture and jewelry courses at the Academy. “It took a lot of trial and error before I got it right.”


Past, Present, Future II will be on display through Dec. 31 at 435 Jefferson Street, Suite 105.