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A Diamond Is Forever (...But So Is A Digital Archive)

two black-and-white photos

This weekend on the IU-Bloomington campus, the Zoom symposium promises to examine nothing less than The Future of Craft.

One of nine exhibitions being mounted in tandem with Zoom features the work of Australian jewelry designer Sim Luttin, a 2008 MFA from IU's Metalsmithing and Jewelry Design department. Her show at IU's Grunwald Gallery of Art These Moments Existedreveals how five years have increased her ambivalence about the materials she uses, and even the art object itself.

The credo that life is short but art sticks around seems particularly appropriate to the field of jewelry design, where precious objects are regularly called upon to stand in for fleeting moments and sentiments. In her current work, Sim Luttin is interrogating this standard operating principle.

While receiving traditional training as a silversmith at IU, Luttin began incorporating found objects into her pieces; but didn't abandon silver as her primary medium until economically motivated to do so.

Beyond Silver

"Given that silver is so expensive now," Luttin reflects, "I decided to push myself out of my comfort zone and try something else."

Using different materials, Luttin's new seriesshowcased in the Grunwald showmirrors her thesis show in its diaristic approach. She created a piece of jewelry each day for that project five years ago.

"It was about trying to find those moments in the every day that are worth noting," she explains, "that could be reflected in jewelry."

One Day At A Time

With fewer resources and fewer hours in the studio-she works full time now as a gallery manager and curator at Arts Project Australia-Luttin improvised on the piece-a-day approach, by posting a photo on Instagram each day, that would ultimately inform a new collection made of paper and wood.

"They're not direct representations of the everyday thing," Luttin says of the pieces displayed in These Moments Existed, "but they're more reflective of the mood of the year. They're almost the things that get left behind, the traces."

Using scraps of Australian hardwood recycled by a furniture making friend as raw material, Luttin sought to reinforce the melancholic mood of the black and white photographs she had been posting daily.

Traces Of A Ravaged Landscape

The environmental associations of the wood amplified the theme of impermanence. "A lot of [the Australian landscape] has been burnt by brush fire," Luttin adds, "and there are always debates about logging." The very day of Luttin's openingOctober 18thnearly 100 active wildfires were reported across New South Wales, Australia's most populous state.

Luttin dyes and hand-colors the hardwood scraps, carves them into shapes that look like asymmetrically faceted gemstones, and glues them together in irregular groups. In a more direct application of the photographic source material, Luttin has punched discs out of some of her printed pictures to string delicate paper beads on cotton thread.

Precious Moments, Non-Precious Materials

The idea of making an impermanent object to record the impermanent human condition flies in the face of the time-honored artistic conceit ars longa vita brevis. The credo that life is short but art sticks around seems particularly appropriate to the field of jewelry design, where precious objects are regularly called upon to stand in for fleeting moments and sentiments.

In her current work, Luttin is interrogating jewelry design's standard operating principle.

"When I created the piece-a-day project five years ago it was very much about things lasting, knowing that in the future, because they're made out of metal, they'll still exist," Luttin recalls. "But I made a conscious decision this time to work in wood and paper for it to have that ephemeral quality."

Metaphysical Jewelry Box

One reason Luttin chose to use less durable materials acknowledges the the role another artist plays in her work. "My photographer does beautiful documentation of the objects," she concedes.

"We're amassing, culturally, this digital archive of images about lifethey might be monumental things, or they might, thanks to social media, be seemingly insignificant things. But that digital archive almost becomes the permanent object; it's almost superseded the object itself. It's almost freeing, because the idea can be more monumental than the object itself."

Sim Luttin's exhibition These Moments Existed is on view at the Grunwald Gallery of Art October 18-November 21, along with two other metals shows-Shift, and Metal, Inkorporated. The exhibitions coincide with the symposium Zoom: Examining the Future of Craft, taking place October 17-19 in IU's Hope School of Fine Arts.

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