Portraits of Now. New collection by Myung Urso

Published: 25.10.2021
Elena Rosenberg
Edited by:
Edited at:
Edited on:
Myung Urso. Brooch: Wifi, 2021. Sterling silver, sand, pigment. 5.8 x 8.5 x 0.8 cm , 6 x 7.5 x 0.8 cm. Photo by: Myung Urso. From series: Portraits of Now. Myung Urso
Brooch: Wifi, 2021
Sterling silver, sand, pigment
5.8 x 8.5 x 0.8 cm , 6 x 7.5 x 0.8 cm
Photo by: Myung Urso
From series: Portraits of Now
© By the author. Read Copyright.

The brooches from the series 'Portraits of Now' show the gamut of emotions we have experienced collectively during the Pandemic - they are relatable, approachable, and familiar and show the decades-strong practice of calligraphy of Myung Urso. The series is presented in pairs that do not seem to communicate in unison, an allusion to the different communicative experiences during the pandemic.
Myung Urso’s series “Portraits of Now” reads like a color-coded diary of the 2020-2021 pandemic experience, done in shorthand. The round and oval faces are canvases onto which the emotional and psychological upheaval of the pandemic experience is applied, in a distilled and measured manner. Urso’s decades-strong practice of calligraphy directly informs these compositions, where brushstroke-like lips and eyebrows carry the charge of shock, frustration, anger, affection, relief, disbelief. Unlike virtually any phenomenon, this pandemic has left no person in the world unaffected. The gamut of emotions we have experienced collectively both unites us and leaves us dealing with them entirely on our own. The countenances and grimaces in Urso’s “portrait” pieces are entirely relatable, approachable, and familiar. Yet, at the same time, they have resolute parallels to theatrical and ceremonial full-face masks used in various cultural traditions, as well as to masquerades.

This series may be the most representational among Myung Urso’s bodies of work, with recognizable objects, letters, and numbers appearing where, heretofore, the visual language of her art jewelry was almost entirely abstract. In “Portraits”, we catch glimpses of household objects and utensils rendered clearly, whereas in the earlier work, lines and layers barely hinted at anything literal. Perhaps it is a manifestation of the fact that, especially during the days of strictest lock-downs, with our range of movements curtailed, simple routines like meal preparation and conversations with people in our immediate households, took on more gravitas and depth. The everyday objects and interactions, thus, are elevated from mundane to elemental and essential. Other pieces in the series invoke English idiomatic expressions, and, though the renditions sometimes are literal, they are cleverly metaphorical as well, especially in the context of the larger series.

The electric, piercing blues and yellows that are part of Urso’s signature’s color arsenal, are present in this series, though the overall palette of “Portraits” is quite reserved, somber, with an industrial, almost institutional, tinge. Yet, the earth and rock hues, of course, are also representative of the materials Urso utilizes in the work - sand, stone or gravel dust, and soil.

The series of works are presented in pairs, with the push-and-pull tension and dichotomous charge inherent in such framing. Indeed, few of the ‘couples’ appear to communicate in unison. Rather, the abundance of orifices utters a variety of murmurs, mutterings, whispers, entreaties. Some are dialogues, some are diatribes, and some are soliloquies. Others are silent. Or silenced.
Despite the certain austerity and somberness that run through the series, there are definitive flickers of whimsy, tenderness, and hope.

Elena Rosenberg, Independent Curator.

About the author

Elena Rosenberg's wearable fiber/textile art and jewelry have appeared in numerous juried fine craft shows in the US. She has served as a member on several arts & exhibitions committees, as a juror for American Craft Council Shows, and in volunteer leadership roles at national and international arts fine/craft organizations. Her prior experience includes a contributing editor position at Fiber Art Now magazine, alongside writing for other publications. She holds an MA from New York University. Elena currently focuses on her small antique vintage textiles business, and on independent creative, curatorial, and writing projects.