All about Worn

Ornament, bauble, bling, trinket, treasure, trimmings, knickknack, frippery, finery, adornment, accessory. These are the words we often use to describe jewelry, marginalizing its importance. But if we look at jewelry through a different loupe we can see that jewelry is much more than an accessory. It is vital to personal expression and a powerful tool for action, protest, and identity formation. Simply put, jewelry expresses our innate impulse to adorn and to communicate who we are.

The exhibition Worn takes jewelry outside the jewelry box to explore these potent aspects of jewelry. Rather than a traditional showcase of jewelry, Worn presents artworks and projects situated at the intersection of jewelry, social issues, and our nation’s history. By creating a platform that unites these works, Worn shows how jewelry is ubiquitous, powerful, private, public, precious, democratic, and so much more.

Each project reveals a unique and perhaps unexpected facet of what jewelry can and does do, underscoring how small objects can make big statements. Projects featured include the collaborative works Amend, Documenting the Nameplate, the Hand Medal Project, Radical Jewelry Makeover, Sash Memorial, and Underpin & Overcoat.

The concept for Worn was sparked five years ago after we visited the Women's Rights National Historic Park in Seneca Falls, NY, where the first women's rights convention was held in 1848. With shared backgrounds in jewelry and metalsmithing, we were incredibly inspired by the objects made and worn by the suffragists, as well as the material ephemera of the ongoing women's rights movement. To us, it confirmed our belief in the power of jewelry and led us to look more closely at the role it has played in historical and contemporary social and political movements.

We started to design collaborative pieces and community artworks, considering each as one piece of the Worn puzzle. As the project continued to develop we knew that other voices were essential to bringing Worn to life. This multifaceted project has grown to include artists, community members across the nation, and collaborative projects that embody different ways that jewelry can, does, and will continue to touch our lives.

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Andrea G. Miller (right) is an educator and visual artist whose practice is greatly influenced by the traditions of metalsmithing and sculpture, community outreach, and public education. Born and raised in the Midwest, Miller completed her MFA from the University of Wisconsin – Madison and earned a BS in art education as well as a BFA in metals from Ball State University. She maintains an active studio practice and exhibition record outside of the classroom and in 2017, she was awarded the Lilly Endowment’s Teacher Creativity Fellowship, which allowed her to restore and travel with her vintage camper, LeRoy. She and the camper traveled over 5,000 miles from Indiana, throughout the southwest and back. Travel and adventure have become an important part of her life and she strives to empower her students to approach making and their life with the same sensibilities.

Amelia Toelke (left) is a visual artist whose work engages the language of jewelry to explore the complex negotiation between identity, culture, and adornment. Toelke’s work activates the space between object and image, reality and representation, revealing her long-time infatuation with flatness. Through a palette of recurring imagery and tropes her work seeks the point where humor and sentimentality meet. Toelke currently lives in Chatham, NY.