IN MEMORIAM: MARJORIE SCHICK 1941 - 2017
Long a leader and innovator in contemporary jewelry, Marjorie Schick has died at the age of seventy-six on December 17, 2017. As Harriete Estel Berman wrote for the Society of North American Goldsmiths in memory of this iconoclast: “The jewelry and objects Marjorie created were statements of visually large proportions. The display of the jewelry was often integral to the work, not unlike the person herself. Placing Schick jewelry in the average display case was out of the question. It could not be contained within normal definitions or expectations for jewelry, either literally or figuratively.” This revelatory description about Schick’s sense of largesse embodies not just its personal presentation but in the multiple varieties of artistic interpretation possible within just one soul. Her work was the embodiment of the kinetic body, never at rest, spirited and charged, electrifying by its radical presence.
Schick was a member of the faculty at Pittsburg State University in Kansas, retiring in 2017 after fifty years. She was named a Fellow of the American Craft Council, and her works are in numerous museums and private collections throughout the world. In 2004 she was the subject of an oral history recorded for the Archives of American Art Oral History Program at the Smithsonian Institution.
Her works were deeply conceptual, digging and teasing, maybe revolutionary at throwing over the conventional. Her brooches, neckpieces and bracelets were also colorfully vibrant, dramatic and without subtlety. Schick’s early training in fashion design and illustration were an important influence, twist and departure from the path of her peers. She had a natural theatrical sense that no doubt helped lead to an embrace of the large scale, moving her into what was then unexplored territory of sculpture to wear. Yes, she respected human physical boundaries, not deviating from it as central to inspiration, yet consistently manipulating the human form, adding layers of visible construction, dimension and complexity.
Her work contained an aesthetic that was both challenging, perhaps worrisome to some, in the questions it presented (Will these wooden dowels break if I bend too far? Is jewelry still jewelry if it is this large?), and sophisticatedly inviting in its fresh approach to what constitutes wearability. For Schick her interests certainly seemed to reside in questions, leaving their possibilities for others to decipher. Her mature work often was based on painted canvas, paper or wood, neglecting or eliminating the traditional materials of the traditional jeweler.
Gold, silver, diamonds, and rubies were not to be found in her jewelry, although one can see works of metal from her earliest training as a student under the renowned Alma Eikerman, graduating with a Master of Fine Arts degree. She recounted to Glen Brown in an Ornament article from 1999: “My sense of art was formed by the example of Alma Eikerman, my mentor when I was a student at Indiana University. She lived her art: it was in the way she was dressed, prepared food, gave parties, decorated her home. It was a total life-consuming approach.”
This is what so many who knew Marjorie Schick as a mentor, friend and colleague also thought—hers was
a life that resided within the infinite possibilities of the intellect and spirit, passionately expressed in the intangibility of art.
—Carolyn L. E. Benesh
See Ornament Volume 22, No. 3, 1999 “Marjorie Schick: Engaging Memory” by Glen R. Brown.