Brooching the Subject 

click to enlarge art49_art_sparkle_100.jpg

For those of us who are suckers for bright, shiny objects, Quirk Gallery offers Sparkle Plenty 3 (through Dec. 22), a smartly curated display of jewelry-making talent and artistic vision that would make Cleopatra, Holly Golightly and Mr. T swoon.

The exhibition is overseen by Quirk's Kathy Emerson and Kathryn Rogge, and guest-curated by Robert Ebendorf, a pioneer in the studio jewelry movement and an über-talent at the East Carolina University School of Art and Design. It showcases the work of 25 local and international jewelry designers whose pieces are as varied as their personalities.

Barbara Heinrich's multifaceted sapphires, which adorn a variety of pieces and come in many colors other than blue, are so intricately cut that they give even the most delicate drop earring a luminosity worthy of the show's title.

Yet not all of the artists work in precious stones and platinum. C. James Meyer incorporates river rocks into his delightfully whimsical pieces, which are hidden in displays of tiny rock gardens -- the small diamond set in the larger rock reveals the ring or brooch amid the crafted foliage.

Ebendorf himself fashions sculptural pieces from found objects, a practice he developed in the 1960s: A nail becomes a bracelet, a tin can lid becomes a brooch, an old newspaper becomes a necklace. Much like the painter applying pigment to a flat canvas and magically creating a three-dimensional image, Ebendorf metamorphoses everyday materials into dazzling objects with a deftness worthy of MacGyver. Innovative enough to bridge the gap between jewelry and sculpture, his works have been acquired by the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston and the Smithsonian American Art Museum, among other institutions.

Whether it's a necklace with a delicate bird's neck shaped into a clasp or a pin with an innovative spiral fastening, one thing's for sure — this ain't your average bling. S

"Sparkle Plenty 3" runs through Dec. 22 at Quirk Gallery. 311 W. Broad St. 644-5450.

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