An insider’s look at the SNAG conference by Susan Myers

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Three years in the planning,  the 2009 Society of North American Goldsmiths’ (SNAG) Philadelphia Conference opens today and runs through Saturday, May 23, with 22 exhibitions focused on the field of metalsmithing along with usual lectures, vendors, and organized discussions typical of  conferences. The three person SNAG Exhibitions Committee (where I spent my volunteer hours for the last two years) organized the exhibition smorgasbord with shows at Tyler School of Art, the Art Alliance, Philadelphia International airport and elsewhere.   SNAG is a membership organization of studio artists, educators, students and others working in all metals, alternative materials, and all aspects of contemporary art, design, jewelry and metalsmithing. Here’s my insider’s report on the conference.  Another report coming this weekend.

Doug Bucci, Islet /Red (Neckpiece) 2007. Photopolymer (Perfactory), polychrome & 18k vermeil 4 x 4 x 1 in.  Shown at Tyler School of Art/Temple University Master of Fine Arts Alumni Exhibition 1969 – 2009
Doug Bucci, Islet /Red (Neckpiece) 2007. Photopolymer (Perfactory), polychrome & 18k vermeil 4 x 4 x 1 in. Shown at Tyler School of Art/Temple University Master of Fine Arts Alumni Exhibition 1969 – 2009

Most local artists involved in the metals scene know that Philadelphia has had a long and vibrant connection to jewelry, metalsmithing, craft, and design. Four exhibitions currently on view provide different looks at this ongoing relationship. The Philadelphia Art Alliance is hosting two of these exhibitions. The first, Stanley Lechtzin: Five Decades 1959-2009, is a retrospective exhibition of Tyler School of Art Professor Stanley Lechtzin. Lechtzin has taught at Tyler since 1962 and in that time has pioneered groundbreaking technological advancements within the jewelry field. In the 60’s he brought electroforming from industry into the artists studio and in the early 80’s he embraced computer-aided design (CAD) and computer-aided manufacturing (CAM) as the revolutionary “hands” of the future designer/jeweler. Many of his former students can be seen in the Tyler School of Art MFA Alumni Exhibition 1969-2009 on display in the new Stella Elkins Tyler Galleries. While I have not seen this exhibit, I am anticipating lots of futuristic looking virtual jewelry and displays of rapid prototyped designs from about 1985 onward – hallmarks of this program’s technological obsession.

Engorged Boutonniere by current UArts Professor Sharon Church, Revolution Exhibit
Engorged Boutonniere by current UArts Professor Sharon Church, Revolution Exhibit

The second exhibit at the Art Alliance is titled (rEvolution): 105 Years of Jewelry and Metalsmithing at The University of the Arts and it features numerous artists who have taught at The University of the Arts and its predecessor institutions the Pennsylvania Museum School of Industrial Arts and the Philadelphia College of Art.

Bruce Metcalf, Costa Rican with Scroll (necklace), 2004-2006, 12 1/4 x 5 inches. Carved and painted maple and boxwood, 24k gold-plated brass, 23k gold leaf
Bruce Metcalf, Costa Rican with Scroll (necklace), 2004-2006, 12 1/4 x 5 inches. Carved and painted maple and boxwood, 24k gold-plated brass, 23k gold leaf

In this exhibit it is clear that the UArts metal program has engaged a variety of artists with diverse creative approaches in reaching out and educating their students. Included in the exhibit are artworks from established artists such as Sharon Church, Rod McCormick, and Bruce Metcalf to younger artists like Veleta Vancza, Melanie Bilenker, and Erin Williams.

Susan Myers, Disposable Series, dimensions variable, silver-plated copper & brass, found material, 1998-2005
Susan Myers, Disposable Series, dimensions variable, silver-plated copper & brass, found material, 1998-2005

Other exhibits that show the metal of Philadelphia are Philadelphia Metalsmiths at the Philadelphia International Airport (Terminal D) and Wrought & Crafted: Jewelry and Metalwork 1900-Present at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. These exhibits continue the “Philadelphia Story” – the actuality that Philadelphia always was and still is home to many metalsmiths who teach, create, and exhibit their artwork both locally and throughout the U.S. and abroad. Leah Douglas selected 16 artists for Philadelphia Metalsmiths who live and/or work in the Philadelphia area. This exhibit is on view until November but like all exhibits at the airport is only open to ticketed passengers. Check it out during your summer and fall travels.

Samuel Yellin, American (b. Poland), 1885-1940, Lock, key and handle, 1911. wrought iron.  Wrought & Crafted: Jewelry and Metalwork 1900-present.
Samuel Yellin, American (b. Poland), 1885-1940, Lock, key and handle, 1911. wrought iron. Wrought & Crafted: Jewelry and Metalwork 1900-present.

Wrought & Crafted was put together by Elisabeth Agro, the Nancy M. McNeil Associate Curator of American Modern and Contemporary Crafts and Decorative Arts at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. The exhibit includes many prominent artists with Philadelphia connections like Samuel Yellin, Olaf Skoogfors, Jan Yager, and Albert Paley, as well as recent modern and contemporary acquisitions. Of special interest is a necklace by Philadelphia artists Ford/Forlano, commissioned by the Museum in memory of its late director Anne d’Harnoncourt and given by the Women’s Committee of the Museum.

Olaf Skoogfors, American (born Sweden), 1930 - 1975, Brooch, 1975. Gilded silver, ivory, pearl
Olaf Skoogfors, American (born Sweden), 1930 - 1975, Brooch, 1975. Gilded silver, ivory, pearl

–Susan Myers is a visual artist and metalsmith who also works as a Project Manager at The Fairmount Park Art Association. Her newest installation “Memories of Happiness”, is on display at the Window on Broad project space at The University of the Arts Rosenwald-Wolf Gallery in conjunction with the 2009 SNAG Conference.

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2009 snag conference, bruce metcalf, doug bucci, olaf skoogfors, samuel yellin, sharon church, susan myers

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