There are currently two fun jewelry shows at the Bellevue Arts Museum.
Read my Pins: The Madeleine Albright Collection has been getting abundant publicity, but if you haven’t seen it yet the last day is June 7 and it’s worth the trip.
Madeline Albright wearing brooch by Dutch artist Gijs Bakker
Secretary Albright was in town in March and spoke at a couple of fundraisers for the museum. I was lucky enough to hear her speak at Bellevue City Hall. She is a good storyteller and has lived the kind of life that provides good stories. I also recommend the book that accompanies the exhibit. It is worth the money as it includes the stories and photographs of her wearing the jewelry collection in real life scenarios, such as with the pair of images below.
Bee brooch, designer unknown
Sec. Albright working with Yasser Arafat wearing the bee.
What surprised me most about seeing her pins in person was the size of them. Many of the brooches are quite large, and some of them are downright garish and would qualify as bling. Albright’s collection is made up of one-of-a-kind art pieces, exquisite antiques, inexpensive costume jewelry, and even a little ceramic heart created by her youngest daughter when she was five years old. She tends to collect themes; patriotic icons, birds, animals and insects, flowers and leaves, shells and fish as well as classic fine jewelry with beautiful stones and cutesy stuff like high-heeled shoes, cowboy hats and Mickey Mouse. In other words it’s a little bit of everything and she wears it all.
Hear No Evil, Speak No Evil, See No Evil, by Iradj Moini
Clowning around with Defense Sec. Cohen and President Clinton.
What makes this particular collection special is that Albright has used her jewelry as a way to communicate while engaged in international diplomacy. She uses it the same way that I often use my jewelry, which is to start a conversation with people.
With Nelson Mandela in 1997, wearing her zebra brooch.
Madeline Albright was the first female US Secretary of State and she didn't have a wife to pack her bags for her many trips. She packed clothes that didn't wrinkle (St. Johns suits) and a selection of jewelry for any occasion. She also packed her cowboy hat to wear on bad hair days. I wonder, does John Kerry ever worry about that?
Some of the pins were gifts, such as this peace dove that was given to her by Leah Rabin, widow of Israeli Prime Minister Rabin.
Upstairs from the Albright exhibit is
Jana Brevick: This Infinity Fits in My Hand, up through August 16, 2015.
Puzzle Guts, from the robot series
Jana is the daughter of an engineer and grew up in a family that moved to wherever her father's projects were. Much of the work is a celebration of an older mechanical world, one of robots and dials and tiny satellites.
From the Intermittent Series
As the granddaughter and wife of engineers, I understand this fascination with old vacuum tubes, mica, detailed diagrams and machines that have real buttons to push. Obsolete electronic parts look very much like jewelry in this their scale and delicate constructions.
Jana sometimes uses the actual parts in jewelry like these little fans she used in the necklace, Whirl, and sometimes focuses on their forms, such as in her cast iron ring series, Transmitters.
My favorite in the whole show is a necklace with tiny delicate satellite shapes titled, Listening…
In one corner of the installation, Jana and her husband created the Atomic Ex-filtrator Ship 7, a sort of spaceship environment for viewing larger jewelry pieces and un-wearable sculptures. The Atomic Ex-filtrator creates an atmosphere kind of like interactive displays at a science museum and adds a feeling of playfulness to the explorations in the show.
I think Jana's intent is to get us to think a little bit but she also wants her audience to have some fun while thinking.