Friday, July 11, 2008

A Little Frippery Is Good For You

Definition of frippery from the Miriam Webster Dictionary
Middle French friperie, alteration of Old French freperie, from frepe old garment
a: finery; also : an elegant or showy garment b: something showy, frivolous, or nonessential c: ostentation; especially : something foolish or affectedly elegant

The Museum of Wisconsin Art in West Bend had a very nice exhibition of frippery. I went to see the exhibition yesterday with some friends. I wish I had a picture of some of the pieces. There was one really cool necklace made out of false eyelashes and silver called "Butterfly Kisses."

Julia Barello, a UW Milwaukee Grad, made some awesome necklaces made from MRI and x ray film. Here's a picture of one of her pieces on a model. The shadows are just as much a piece of the jewelry as is the meticulously hand cut and dyed film.

Museum of Wisconsin Art logo

Frippery: Peculiar Bijoutery or Curiously Adorned?

Some synonyms for the word “Frippery” are gewgaw, knickknack, tinsel, gaudy, frivolous, ostentatious, trivial and unnecessary. Commonly used in a negative sense, it suggests excess over function, wants over needs. Each of the artists in this exhibition have reclaimed the word, embracing its implied showiness and extravagance. Julia Barello, Marna Brauner, Carolynn Desch, Catherine Gilbertson, Hai-Chi Jihn, Yevgeniya Kaganovich, Rachelle Thiewes, Kate Wagle and Jan-Ru Wan all seek to explore form and function as it relates to jewelry and body adornment – and specifically with regard to women.

Despite the association with the word “frippery,” this is serious work which uses a variety of orthodox and unorthodox materials to explore thought-provoking issues regarding bodily decoration and the message it sends. As Stephanie Taylor, Assistant Professor of Art at New Mexico State University writes, “Embracing frippery, or even making it the working principle of your art, demands that one privilege overt decoration over subtle structure; it asks one to pursue the hysterical over the rational, to desire the messy over the neat, and to eschew the simple in favor of the complicated. It forces us to consider the insignificant (an aging, bound thesaurus in the age of online dictionaries, for example, or an object as increasingly obscure and as redundant as x-ray film in the digital era) instead of the significant. Working with frippery forces one to find (or make) something valueless valuable.”

Today's quote comes from Betty Grable: It's loud, it's cheap, it's gaudy. It's like everything I've ever done.

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