Widget Locket No. 5: Homage to Vanity (Selfie)

Patricia Sullivan: “Widget Locket #5: Homage to Vanity” (inside detail).  19  7/8" x 2  5/16" x 5/16", 2014. Photo: P. Sullivan

Patricia Sullivan: “Widget Locket #5: Homage to Vanity” (inside detail). Chased sterling silver, archival paper, Plexiglas, handmade sterling chain/clasp. 19 7/8″ x 2 5/16″ x 5/16″, 2014. Photo: P. Sullivan

If you own a smartphone, most likely you’ve either taken a “selfie” – a current-day self-portrait photo, or a quick snap while out with a group of friends. This new-found obsession with narcissism AND technology has prodded at my thoughts and become a product of intense analyzing, while observing my peers’ behavior over every type of social media that engages me.

In 2013, Oxford Dictionaries announced that the word “selfie” is to be recognized as the “Word of the Year” – while just last week, Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary added “selfie” to their updated dictionary, as this year’s list is heavily influenced by social media and digital technology.

U.S. President Barack Obama’s now-famous selfie from last December with Danish Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt and British Prime Minister David Cameron created such a media buzz – while Pope Francis posed with a group for “selfies” after a packed April 2014 service in Saint Peter’s Square.

No doubt, as much as we are all exhausted from hearing about these celebrity selfies, what we come away with in the end is our own human fascination with our narcissism and the possible “monster” that social media like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram may have created: the “Look at me!” principle.

Patricia Sullivan: “Widget Locket #5: Homage to Vanity” (front detail and clasp).  Chased sterling silver, archival paper, Plexiglas, sterling chain/clasp. 19  7/8" x 2  5/16" x 5/16", 2014. Photo: P. Sullivan

Patricia Sullivan: “Widget Locket #5: Homage to Vanity” (front detail and clasp). Chased sterling silver, archival paper, Plexiglas, sterling chain/clasp. 19 7/8″ x 2 5/16″ x 5/16″, 2014. Photo: P. Sullivan

This jewelry piece employs the elaborately organic motifs derived from Italian textile patterns that are chased and engraved on this locket’s front. Just as Victorians memorialized their loved ones in pieces known as “mourning jewelry”, I hope to pay homage with a “selfie”. Photographed and staged to be a modern-day mockup of a self-engaged female holding her smartphone, she snaps a picture in a mirror of herself. At high risk of the viewer assuming I am staging this selfie for my Widget Locket because of any attention-seeking, that is the price-to-pay for bringing selfie “over-consumption” to the foremost of my viewer’s attention. I am not seeking the “Look at me!” dynamic, but instead hope to challenge the viewer to notice how technology has overtaken our personal lives and our daily routines.

Preparatory drawings in Illustrator and work-in-progress halves of the metal locket in early stages of fabrication. Photo: P. Sullivan

Preparatory drawings in Illustrator and work-in-progress halves of the metal locket in early stages of fabrication. Photo: P. Sullivan

This Widget Locket No. 5 continues from my prior series of text-based art jewelry pieces. Its interior image is first photographed via iPhone, digitally manipulated in Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop, outputted onto archival paper and placed behind Plexiglas. The metalwork of the locket is hand-fabricated in sterling silver by using chasing tools on annealed metal placed into chaser’s pitch and delicately hammered. The long, elegant chain is entirely handmade from sterling wire; the clasp and bail are sawn-out, hand-formed and then soldered together from sterling sheet.

I look forward to introducing this piece with my other Widget Lockets at an upcoming gallery show later this summer in the Lower Adirondacks’ region of New York that will feature a substantial offering of my current body of work.

All images, creative concepts and objects pictured in this blog entry are copyright-2014 Patricia Sullivan / artdoesmatter and may not be used or duplicated without my permission.

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27 thoughts on “Widget Locket No. 5: Homage to Vanity (Selfie)

  1. I think this is brilliant, Patricia! A fascinating relationship with traditional and modern. It’s beautiful piece!

    Do you think it’s only a matter of time before someone comes out with a digital locket?

    • Karen, what a completely appropriate concept to tech and art/jewelry coming together! Since the digital picture frame technology exists – it would only be a case of shrinking its scale down to locket-size and weight. If I was more of a scientific mindset – I would love to make something completely digital like that. As a serious admirer of your work genre, I cannot thank you enough for your wonderful feedback on my piece. Thanks for stopping by!

    • Dot, I am honored that a gifted metalsmith such as you likes my piece! Honestly, I am beyond thrilled that my point of this locket is coming across clearly. I have been debating in my mind about this “selfie” concept for so long that it needed to be addressed. Thank you so much for stopping by and giving me such great feedback. P.S. I can’t wait to see and hear all about your upcoming show and congrats again on the opening of Whau Studios! So exciting.

    • Philippa, thanks so much. I deliberately chose a pattern that was a popular “artichoke” pattern found in Renaissance wall hangings. My maternal side of the family, as I’ve mentioned before is Italian, and my grandmother had similarly modern-day versions of textile art around her home. I knew you would ‘follow’ my wanting to link old world portraiture styles w/ tech of present day. It is always such a treat for me when you visit my blog!! Thanks again!

  2. This is a post for my ‘fave’ archives Patricia – thank you. Your work employs such exquisite craftsmanship, and your thoughts run deep – a powerful, engaging combination. Congratulations. x

    • Oh Miriam, I am deeply flattered by your lovely and generous comments about my piece. All this coming from such a gifted artist, writer and glorious blogger such as you!! Thanks so much!

    • Hollis, I was not aware of his article – but I just found it now through Google. So much I do know has been written about “selfie culture”, and I’m not done exploring this concept yet in my own work! I have text-based jewelry pieces I’ve started too that are involved in this idea. Will give that Saltz article a good read later on! Thanks so much!!

  3. Oh Patricia. Your post gave me goose bumps. One function of an artist is to get people thinking. The locket is so beautiful. We have a poet cartoonist in Australia called Leunig who often ponders peoples desire to know themselves in a spiritual sense. Perhaps the selfie is another question? You have inspired me dear Patricia with your posts and I can barely believe it and at the same time it feels quite inevitable but I am working on a small exhibition for a gallery in Northcote. I am confident you will LOVE IT and I will let you know all the details as soon as it is ready to go. <3

    • Sharon, I’m so happy that you stopped by! If my widget locket set off a small ‘pop’ even in your mind – then I am so happy, and even relieved. I was full of trepidation that others would misinterpret my use of photography here. But honestly, how can this locket contain a “selfie” if I’d chosen to use a different person’s portrait, yes? **And allow me to be the first person to send you warm CONGRATS on your show upcoming in Northcote!! I want to be there in the worst way. Dear friends of mine recently did a meetup at Brunetti’s in Melbourne – and now I really want to go! Can’t wait to hear all about your work for your exhibit!!

  4. Patricia, how could this be misinterpreted! Your intention comes through quite clearly. The treatment you’ve chosen leaves no doubt as to what the piece is about (not attention seeking). The historical reference, within a modern context – you’ve struck the perfect balance there. And as usual, your attention to details and perfect execution brings it all together. For me, it’s a serious piece with a touch of humour, a wink, a piece that makes us reflect and look at ourselves, but not in a patronizing way.
    This a great addition to your Widget Lockets series, and well-deserving of a show. Congratulations, Patricia!

    • Dominique, I’m so happy to hear your comments re: my piece. While I would not expect you to comment on this directly, I can only imagine the anecdotal observations you must have from seeing your students “play around”/using their phones/taking “selfies” outside of class! It seems to be a phenomenon, though, that transverses any age/gender/occupation restrictions, as even the Pope has been seen taking them!! You also recognized the slight humor in my “selfie” locket. While I don’t wish to elicit laughter – I do realize that putting a smartphone selfie into a pretty intense jewelry piece that took me a better part of several months to design, conceive, hammer and complete does show a humorous irony. And you nailed my intentions exactly above when you said it’s a piece that makes us reflect and look at ourselves. Thanks so very much for stopping by and sharing such beautiful commentary!

  5. I wish I was more sophisticated in commenting on your inspiration for this piece, its tough trying to create alongside visionaries. After reading articles such as yours, I am reminded of the need to have imagination and vision, such as you have. I just wish to congratulate you and thank you for sharing the drawings alongside this beautiful piece. Smashing work that is an aesthetic triumph, and a technical achievement, it will be great to see the series. Thank you

    • Receiving such kind comments from someone such as yourself who understands the technical demands of chasing and repoussé in silver – but also appreciating the planning stages through drawing – so pleases me. I decided this time to document several stages of the process by taking in-process snaps w/ my phone at the bench – but I haven’t felt compelled to share these on the blog. Instead, I’ve shared my process more so over social media like Facebook/Instagram. I love the way you share w/ your blog readers such depth and details of your metalworking process; it should be “the standard” by which all other silversmith/metalsmith bloggers document their work! Stu, I appreciate your thoughtful and generous comments today. Thank you for visiting!

  6. Well, you have done it again, Patricia!! I can’t add anything to what I have already read here… just to say that your pieces continue to astound me. Breathtaking craftsmanship here… I think I actually uttered “Wow” when I saw this stunning piece. Best of luck with your show, Patricia. Will you go and post some photos? Wish I could be there… Best, Anita

    • Anita, you really flatter me! I could say the exact same praises for your magnificent paintings. **Also, I want to thank you for blogging awhile back about the Seattle jazz radio station that streams online (88.5). It has been my go-to listening in the studio while creating this new piece! I hope you enjoy a nice and sunny Chicago summer, and I can’t wait to see what new work you create. Thanks again for your lovely visit today!

      • Oh yeah, jazz 24 out of Seattle, I listen to them and also my hometown jazz streaming station WDCB 90.9 This is the one I mostly listen to in the afternoons. If there is a problem with the stream I go to the Seattle one. Also, WDCB has terrific Brazilian music on Sundays I think 2 or 3 PM my time. Anyway you can find their schedule on their website. I love listening to jazz when I paint : )

  7. Your blog piqued my interest on so many levels. I am not very well-versed in Victorian “mourning jewelry,” but I’ve already done a Google image search in the brief lapse between reading your post and typing this comment. Fascinating stuff!

    What a beautiful piece you’ve created, Patricia. I love the selfie you chose, as well. Gorgeous work!

    • Gina, thank you so much. Victorian mourning jewelry has been a subject that’s fascinated me repeatedly. There are a multitude of ways that jewelry becomes the vehicle for objects of the beloved – such as holding snippets of hair, objects of familial importance like chatelaines, decorative mirrors and old photographs. It’s a constant source of rich imagery, history and old world-to-modern-day comparisons. It certainly has fueled my interest in making these one-of-a-kind lockets, and could be the subject of even so much more I haven’t even touched on yet in my work. Thank you again for stopping by my blog this evening and for sharing your thoughtful comments and lovely compliments!

  8. Very nice post! I appreciate that you are not afraid to engage some aspect of social commentary in your art. Your are so right about the narcissism in our society. Are there just so many of us on the planet now that we need continued reaffirmation that we exist and matter?

    • Al, I’m so glad that you recognize the social commentary aspect of my work; I’m finding too many within the field of ‘art jewelry’ to be wary of embracing ANYTHING beyond ‘pretty things’. I find your last sentence so provoking, yet – I believe you’re onto something w/ “selfie pic-taking fascination” reaffirming our need to exist. Thanks so much for stopping by!

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