ORNAMENT Volume 37 No. 5

Kiff Slemmons. Collaboration in Absentia
Joan Tenenbaum. Vital and Fragile Interconnections
Nubian Mosaic Face Beads. The Enigma of Variations
Svatopluk Kasaly. The Sensuality of Glass
Being Fabulous. 50 Years of Ebony Fashion Fair
Costume Arts. Hollywood Costume
Jewelry Arts. Multiple Exposures
Museum News. The Danner Rotunda
Exhibition. Protective Ornament
Collectibles. Art Seymour


Framed by silver bezels darkened to resemble wrought iron or blue steel, exquisitely knapped stone projectile points serve as tacit evidence that the drive to perfect technologies is hardly exclusive to the modern age. In Kiff Slemmons’s most recent work a respect not only for the skills of ancient artisans but also, and more important, for the adherence of those artisans to the highest of aspirations for their craft makes what might have been mere whimsical appropriation a moving reflection on some of the most praiseworthy facets of human nature.


Jewelry infused with environmental and cultural content is Joan Tenenbaum’s signature as an artist. Virtually every brooch, neckpiece, bracelet, or ring she has made in the last thirty-five years is grounded not only in precise craftsmanship but also in her deep love of Alaska, its native cultures and its awe-inspiring natural beauty.


Artforms in many cultures are often ritualized and follow fairly rigid formats, none more seemingly so than early Roman mosaic face canes. Those studying early Roman tabular and spherical glass face beads believed these figural full-frontal faces represented two aspects of Medusa: as a Gorgon, with rod-like striations as hair, depicting stylized snakes, or as a woman, with long, black flowing hair, a neck with necklace and bust. Recently, while editing a manuscript on ancient Nubian jewelry, Robert Liu saw for the first time the tabular mosaic face beads excavated at Meroë (present day Sudan) by George Reisner in the 1920s.


Light is as integral a component of Svatopluk Kasalý’s oeuvre as the solids of glass and metal. Reflections, refraction, diffraction, dispersion; the scattering of light, and sight, is a third dimension of Kasalý’s jewelry. It transforms what could be considered a mundane substance into otherworldly beauty. The fluidity of the glass casts shadows and occlusions which warp and reveal in profound complexity. Now you see it, now you do not. This artistic sorcery is magnified, literally and figuratively, upon the human canvas.


The traveling fashion show known as the Ebony Fashion Fair presented haute couture garments in venues ranging from high school gymnasiums in small towns to grand ballrooms in large cities. The audiences, primarily middle and uppermiddle class African-American women, thrilled at the extravagant clothing, over-the-top presentation and sense of community created through this annual shared experience. Produced by Ebony magazine and directed for much of its run by Eunice Walker Johnson, the Ebony Fashion Fair grew from traveling to about thirty cities the first year to over one hundred eighty at its height.