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Melissa Cameron, Joya 2019 Jury Member interviewed by Klimt02

Interview  /  Fairs   Joya2019   Curating
Published: 26.03.2019
Melissa Cameron Melissa Cameron
Author:
Carolin Denter, Klimt02
Edited by:
Klimt02
Edited at:
Idar-Oberstein
Edited on:
2019
.

© By the author. Read Klimt02.net Copyright.

Intro
JOYA Barcelona is the main art jewelry and art object event in Spain. Gathering a great number of independent artists as well as related organizations, schools and other entities, JOYA  prepares to present excellence and innovation in contemporary art.

With the 11th edition taking place, this Ocotber the fair will be held under the topic of "Diplomacy and Jewellery", inspired by the former US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, which used pins to express her moods and opinions.
 
We spoke to Jury Member Melissa Cameron. Since 2016 Melissa Cameron has departed from earlier themes to explore the political arena, and has translated her research into jewelry.


Melissa, until recently you lived and worked in Seattle, Washington in the USA. You received your MFA in jewelry and metalsmithing from Monash University and a BA (Hons) in interior architecture from Curtin University, in Australia and your works are exhibited, collected and published worldwide. This year you are selected as JOYA 2019 Jury Member. Please tell us more about your professional development.
I trained as an interior architect first and practiced for several years in my hometown of Perth in Western Australia, to where I have just returned after 12 years. This background influences my aesthetic, in that my works frequently appear ‘architectural’ looking. It comes from my process, and what I experience. When I moved to Melbourne I became very influenced by the cityscape there, as it is beautifully complex and layered. At this point my work began layering, it literally got taller, and I began to play with depth in my compositions. I received two Australia Council grants while in Melbourne, enabling me to work full time in my practice and undertake a residency with Elizabeth Turrell in the UK. Working in Elizabeth’s studio at UWE to learn enamelling on steel changed the materiality of my work. Soon after, moving to the USA changed my understanding of my role as an artist, and what kind of artist that I wanted to be. It also came with a lot of opportunities, like being a guest artist at several universities, on the Editorial Advisory Committee for Metalsmith Magazine and more international exhibitions and residencies, as well as a bunch of new friends and colleagues, for all of which I am very grateful
 

Diplomacy and Jewellery is the topic for JOYA 2019 and the accompanying exhibition of Artesania Catalunya. 
You have been selected to be in this year’s Jury because some of your work has a strong political attitude. Where did your interest in politics and social issues begin?

The themes and stories in my current work come from moving to the USA in 2012. Being a migrant and having different opportunities and influences than in my country of origin shifted my perspective, as did the local political situation. But at first I think the social climate was the most telling - things like the amount of gun violence that has been allowed to occur in the USA, but that is not accepted in most other countries of similar wealth in the world. I had a heightened awareness of the role empathy plays in the relations between people when I moved to Seattle, and I can’t say that this was a change in me or in the climate of that place, but it made me want to investigate human relations in my work.


Inspired by the US Secretary Albright and her famous action on wearing pins with political messages while attending different events and meetings, this year's topic is relevant than ever. But - Art and politics - there are some people that think they should never mix. What’s your view and why do you feel it’s important to pair art with activism in this way? Do you see an inherent relationship between art and political interventions?
Being an object maker, I have a heightened awareness that the objects we make speak volumes about our feelings, I have made objects that include depictions of weapons, objects that give form to some of our strongest feelings. I think that striving for beauty is important for humanity, to remind ourselves how special and incredible we have the power to be. But I also believe that if you are going to create a platform to show what you can do as an artist, you can also choose to make objects - jewels - that serve multiple messages. Being able to delight with an object that has an interesting story as well as a function, as jewellery can do, is a balancing act that is difficult to master. But at this point in human history, it is something I think that is necessary to attempt, at least for me. All our acts are political, and it’s our job as artists to master the messages we send through our work, be they political or otherwise.
 
 
  • Being an object maker, I have a heightened awareness that the objects we make speak volumes about our feelings, I have made objects that include depictions of weapons, objects that give form to some of our strongest feelings.


What is your personal interpretation of this year’s topic? Any thoughts?
Ideological expression is something that is very polarizing, which makes it an interesting arena for an artist. It seems to me that at this moment politics internationally is thriving on in enhancing division through bigotry and racism, so I would be investigating ways to actively counter that message. Political work is important and takes a lot of effort. I hope our exhibitors are prepared for the honesty and the research it requires, and are being self-aware in the pieces they make as well as the process, taking care of themselves as they work.

 
  • Political work is important and takes a lot of effort. I hope our exhibitors are prepared for the honesty and the research it requires, and are being self-aware in the pieces they make as well as the process, taking care of themselves as they work.


There are many ways to deal with political problems and Zeitgeist. What do you think is required to make a political statement in art and design that actually resonates with people, and makes a difference?
If you are going to make political work you have to do your research. You have to keep an open mind and be self-critical, to the point that you are prepared to throw away pieces and ideas that don’t meet their target. Some works will resonate with a lot of people, and some messages will only be relevant to a small group so you do have to pick your target depending on the audience you want to cultivate. That said, in the work I make I don’t aim for making a difference, I aim for developing a community around a shared idea, so that others know that they are not alone in their thoughts. When you see other people acting according to their conscience in a public way, a community of the like-minded has the chance to develop, allowing individuals to feel supported. In my work I try to say, I can see you, I feel the same way too. When connections happen people can feel safe in their dissent, and then there is more likelihood of change.
 

As a judge for the 2019 JOYA Award, what do you expect to see? What is the aesthetic specific you are looking for and what are your criteria or your visions for the selection?
I don’t look for an aesthetic, but the perfect realisation of an idea. Sometimes that necessitates the piece be ugly, or profoundly beautiful. So long as the idea is carried through all of the components of the design, I will be awed and impressed with a work. I am hopeful of being surprised.


What do you think of the fairs as a communicative event and/or for career development? What personal experience have you had about it? What do you think is special about the JOYA Jewellery Fair in Barcelona?
Fairs are a great way to build community, which I think is very important right now. Social separation breeds political isolation, distrust and fear. We need to spend more time being reminded that we are in a relationship with one another. Joya is the perfect space for this, it brings artists of many nationalities together with their patrons and with each other to bond over common interests like self-expression, beauty and perhaps even politics. Joya’s clarity of purpose is it’s best feature, with the proliferation of fairs I think it’s good that each offers a distinct vibe.
 
 
  • Fairs are a great way to build community, which I think is very important right now. Social separation breeds political isolation, distrust and fear.


What kind of contemporary jewelry would you like to see more often?
My tastes are diverse, but I do love to dress up. I would love to see more people in the world wearing much larger pieces. Seeing the bold, beautiful and outlandish fills me with joy and makes me think the wearer is truly embracing their humanity by living their life deliberately and with gusto! And I’m really excited if there is room for a bold statement within that.
 

About the Interviewee

Melissa Cameron is a jeweller and artist, who makes socially conscious work. She holds a BA in Interior Architecture and a Postgraduate Diploma in Jewellery Production from Curtin University. She received her MFA in Jewellery and Metalsmithing from Monash University in 2009. She lived in Seattle, in the US, from 2012 until late 2018, when she returned to Perth.
She has exhibited extensively, with solo exhibitions in Australia, Japan and the USA. Her works are in public collections, including the National Gallery of Australia, the University of Iowa Museum of Art and Cheongju City Collection in South Korea.
She has participated in residencies in the UK, Germany and the US, received a Fellowship Award from Artist Trust in Seattle, and grants from the Australia Council for the Arts. She has presented papers at conferences and symposia in Australia, Europe and North America, her writing appears on Art Jewelry Forum, and she is the former chair of Metalsmith Magazine’s Editorial Advisory Committee.
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