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Interview with Kellie Riggs

Interview  /  Artists
Published: 10.04.2012
Interview with Kellie Riggs.
Author:
Klimt02
Edited by:
Klimt02
Edited at:
Barcelona

Intro
There are these trends going around, or at least what I would call “insta-contemporize” formulas. Painted wood objects, immediate ways of assemblage, bright color combinations and/or everything painted black, no metal usage… the list goes on. (...) people seem to be forgetting why they are making jewelry at all. And if they aren’t forgetting, least they’re not thinking to mention why the object needs to be jewelry and why it needs to be made of these things.

Do you think that jewelry is being standardized? What is there of local and universal in your artistic work? 
To a degree, yes, unfortunately. There are these trends going around, or at least what I would call “insta-contemporize” formulas. Painted wood objects, immediate ways of assemblage, bright color combinations and/or everything painted black, no metal usage… the list goes on. And it’s ok, but there is definitely something in the water or everyone is drinking the same water. And for me at least, when looking at some of these objects, I don’t know why the object is a necklace, or a brooch. There’s a big disconnect. And maybe it is brave or something, but people seem to be forgetting why they are making jewelry at all. And if they aren’t forgetting, least they’re not thinking to mention why the object needs to be jewelry and why it needs to be made of these things. 

In my work there is both. My points of departure were specific to a place, Italy, where I have been living on and off for a few years now. And while I couldn’t have arrived at some of my ideas without being surrounded by a specific place, a locality, my work aims to speak more universally through visual and physical components taken from that place. The vocabularies I have chosen to explain my work both optically and through language are meant to be understood by all. My work speaks about fundamentals.

What do you expect when exposing your work to the public (for example with an exhibition)? 
This is a tricky question. I am very much interested in the potentiality that my work possesses, and others of course. Is there more we can do than just to hang a necklace on a wall? And my work very much needs to be seen on the body, so this creates problems as well. I view the photographs of my work to be pieces in and of themselves, framing the idea and communicating that idea as such. But galleries seem to want real pieces, which is obviously fine with me too, but the combination of both is problematic it seems. Contemporary jewelry gallerists want the work that fits into drawers, in the palm of a hand. But ideally I would love it if I could project my images on an entire wall and even allow a person to “try on” a piece of mine to feel its physicality, not necessarily to see if it “looks good”… Part of my work involves this necessity to feel the object adorned in order to understand it best. I’m interested in creating new environments; some would describe it as unconventional perhaps, but I feel it to be so obvious, underutilized, and at this point extremely necessary.

Are other areas besides the jewelry, present in your work? 
Yes, I think so. I am using photography to communicate the work that involves jewelry, because the work isn’t just a jewelry object itself. And it isn’t photography either. It’s like what I was saying before, the potential of an environment or a feeling as an intregal aspect of the work, a reframing of how the body is seen by others too. I like to describe a work of mine as an object(s) (then I list the material) on a body in an unprinted photograph. I’m not sure what else to call it because I don’t want those I meet to pigeonhold my work to this percieved supplemetnry or minor field of jewelry. That’s not what I would call our field anyway. I’m also not saying I’m not proud to be a jeweler, but when explaining what I do to those outside the contemporay jewelry sphere, it gets problematic so I like to see how my work relates to visual art or fine art… we need to start builiding bridges to this bigger art world and I think the language we use (or decide not to use) can help us get there. . 

The last work, book, film, that has moved me was... 
Borromini’s re Magi Chapel and the whole Propeganda Fide building in Rome. I wept.

A place, space, country whose creativity surprises me... 
Renaissance Italy

Is there any designer, jeweller, artist, you appreciate a lot? 
There are too many. The Italian goldsmiths out of Padova, namely, Babetto. These people are heroes of mine. They maintained traditional material and technique while everyone everywhere else threw it all out. And they still made innovative, new work. They changed the game in Italy.

On the other end of the spectrum, I am really inspired by folks like Ted Noten, Wim Delvoye and Erwin Wurm. They invented special secret formulas of making and thinking that harness the potential of building this bridge I keep speaking about. For example, Wim makes work that too utilizes craft-based (the C word, I know!) medias but speaks to contemporary culture. He’s got the best of both worlds going and his ideas are simple, great one-liners. And Wurm simply and geniusly plays with the declaration of an object or situation as art, questioning what is and what can be considered a “sculpture” by creating specific dynamics. And most of the work is focused on exploiting human interactions or human conditions, just like the best of those within the contemporary jewelry world. Noten is doing this too but in different ways, raising questions while simultaneously answering them within each piece. Tino Sehgal is a new inspiration of mine too. I think jewelry has the power to work in ways Sehgal’s pieces do, but obviously in more tactile modes that somehow speak to the same kind of non-objective circumstance.

What piece or work has given you the most satisfaction? 
Of my own? Technically speaking, it’s a ring I haven’t even finished yet. I designed it two years ago in Rome based on the interior of the church Santa Maria Maggiore. Babetto helped me fabricate it but it still lives unfinished. Not sure why I can’t bring myself to complete it but the piece holds a lot of power and honestly I’m a big scared of it. As far as my other work in the series, Architettonico, can I say that none of it has yet to satisfy me wholly because they haven’t yet properly lived in the world? Maybe one has, that is Continity/Structure II. I wear this piece all the time so it gets a lot of mileage and a lot of other people have been able to touch it and wear it which is everything to me.

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