Ford/Forlano’s Full Pillow Necklace # 11 (2009) has been in big demand. After being on loan to the Racine Art Museum for the Terra Nova exhibition, it just landed a permanent home at the Newark Museum, in Newark, New Jersey. Last October, Newark Museum curator Ulysses Dietz met Steven Ford and David Forlano in Racine, Wisconsin at the Terra Nova opening and symposium. While RAM became the central focus of the polymer collection project, The Newark Museum was also a beneficiary. Dietz selected 42 pieces of polymer jewelry which became part of the Museum’s studio jewelry collection. Within this body of work, there was a small, early work by Ford/Forlano, then known as City Zen Cane. Since making that brooch, Ford/ Forlano began to collaborate with a silversmith, Maryanne Petrus, so that they could incorporate metal components into their work. This concept is of special interest to Dietz as an example of combining metal jewelry fabrication, once a prime industry in Newark, with a modern interpretation of the inset jewel –here made with polymer. The idea is exemplified by Ford/ Forlano’s, Full Pillow Necklace #11, which was acquired as a Gift of Dr. Francis A. Wood in Memory of Rosetta Miller. Dietz writes that this purchase seems especially appropriate in that Mrs. Miller, whom he knew, liked to wear large jewelry and would have “adored” this new necklace.
Ford/Forlano’s piece, while quite big, is wearable. It was modeled by Petrus at the Philadelphia Museum of Art runway show called ‘Jewelry in Motion’. This event was in conjunction with the SNAG 2009 conference and took place in the grand staircase hall. The necklace is totally reversible with patterns designed by Ford and forged by Petrus into the flat silver sheet before doming. Two hidden clasp hooks enable it to open but in reality it slips easily over one’s head and can be worn in any direction. Both the large scale and the wire work were inspired by a show of Alexander Calder‘s jewelry which had been exhibited at the PMA in 2008.
Dietz is the Senior Curator and Curator of Decorative Arts at the Newark Museum. His range of interests and expertise is broad, but his keen eye and love for the decorative arts has enabled him to assemble a distinguished collection of objects for the Museum. For Dietz, jewelry is a natural extension of the decorative arts. He has actively collected jewelry, both historic and contemporary, for the Museum over the past 20 years. Jewelry is a notable part of the decorative arts collection at the Newark Museum because from 1850-1950 Newark was the center for 14K jewelry making in the United States. (Dietz organized and co-curated the 1997 exhibition on the jewelry making industry, ‘The Glitter and The Gold: Fashioning America’s Jewelry’.) In addition, the Museum has a significant collection of contemporary craft which expands easily into the area of studio jewelry.
In August of 2009, the Museum opened a new gallery devoted to jewelry. Named after its donor, the Lore Ross Jewelry Gallery is a permanent place for Dietz to highlight the “gems” in his care. The Museum’s holdings include work from the 1600’s to present day and the Lore Ross gallery offers perpetual exhibition opportunities. For Dietz, the connection between how a piece was designed and fabricated and the resulting interaction of this process with real people in real life is an important element of his collecting and exhibition philosophy. Like all art forms, jewelry tells the story of its maker, its times and its public audience through both the acquirer and the observers. It is part of what makes jewelry such a rich field of study within a larger context of decorative arts.