EXHIBIT REVIEW Moving Jewelry Beyond the Bauble Boundary

Ornaments Far From Ordinary in MFA Exhibit

240 mfa
Mary Lee Hu's Choker #88 is on display in "Jewelry by Artists: The Daphne Farago Collection" at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston until March 5, 2008.
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

"Jewelry by Artists: The Daphne Farago Collection"

Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

Lee Gallery

May 22, 2007 – March 5, 2008

It's hard not to like jewelry. The familiar shape and feel of it against your skin and the memories it brings make wearing jewelry a small everyday pleasure. The glances and admiration it sometimes elicits are not to be underestimated, either. But those of us who love jewelry don't quite know what it is to really love jewelry until we've visited the new Museum of Fine Arts exhibit showcasing it: "Jewelry by Artists: The Daphne Farago Collection."

About 200 stunners make up this exhibit, all donated by Daphne and Peter Farago. You've never seen jewelry quite like this, because there is nary a hint of a three-stone diamond pendant behind the glass cases. Designed specifically by studio artists and meant to be worn as masterpieces, the pieces are not mere decoration, but art. As such, it is hard to recommend what is and isn't worth seeing. Let's just leave it at this: it's all worth seeing, if only to explore your tastes in both art and adornment.

My tastes lead me to be in love with anything delicate, absurd, or having to do with flowers. First on my list is the 18-carat white gold and rutilated quartz ring created by Margaret de Patta. The oversized clear stone has bits of what look like shredded black paper running through it, compelling a closer look. Though the ring itself is sturdy and ruled by thick edges and lines, the stone flecked by titanium ore appealed to me as fragile and elegant. This piece is delicate without being flimsy or cloyingly dainty.

One of Robert Ebendorf's creations can be compared to the literary works of Samuel Beckett — absurd. His necklace made of crab claw, green beach glass, pearls, iron wire, and cable made me laugh outright, before making me gasp. Really, wearing a crab claw as a swinging pendant? But then I noticed the petite pearls lining one edge of the claw, creating an exquisite balance between the precious and the plain. How delightfully odd!

I found my flower in Daniel Jocz's "Dies Irae and Tuba Mirum." Made of silver, 14-carat gold, and sapphire, it was a graceful blossom perched on what looked like mini stakes or nails. I say perched, because the flower wasn't pierced by the nails, but rather had repelled them away from its gentle petals. Named after a Latin hymn about the Judgement Day, does this depict beauty deflecting the unlovely and purity washed clean of sins? Maybe.

Most of the fun of this exhibit is in trying to pinpoint what you like or dislike about each piece. Sometimes your eyes will just glaze over one, shooting directly to another. Each piece will cause a reaction, and in order to enhance your appreciation, this reaction is best discussed with the person next to you, especially if it is a complete stranger.