Kathleen Dustin: Turning Blue into Gold

Kathleen Dustin: Turning Blue into Gold

Kathleen Dustin had a memorable third week of April.    While she has exhibited at the Smithsonian Craft fair a number of times before, this year she won The Gold Award.   Dustin’s work has been highly noteworthy for many years, so what in particular caught the three judges’ attention this year?

Perhaps it was a new body of non- representational work Dustin calls “Layered Fragments”.  In this recently debuted series of brooches and segmented necklaces, Dustin applies pigment directly onto polymer to create an abstract composition.   She enhances this surface design with applied metal leaf, glitter and embossing powders.   Around each mini painting there is narrow black polymer frame.   Linear inclusions of sterling silver wire play off elements of the composition.  Appearing both within the main focus area and then extending beyond the frame into the surrounding space, these graphic accents both complement the design and provide contrast.

The hard, white sheen of the silver wire counters the soft painterly appearance of Dustin’s polymer surfaces.  In her “Blue Layered Fragment” brooch the irregular coil of silvery-white incised line at the top overlays a loosely defined oval area of yellow.  This clean linear accent helps to define the area and simultaneously create an illusion of of depth.   The rounded shape echoes the arc of the frame as well as the sparkly green oval that appears towards the lower left edge.   At the top, silver wires burst through the frame providing a sense of upward energy.  The origin of this upward spiral movement appears in the lower area of the brooch.  Here opposing zigzag lines present a stable but energetic hatching which like a trampoline, bounce vertical components -the serrated gold leaf detail, black X and the sequence of yellow and cadmium red strokes on the right- towards the top.  That all of this energy seems to balance on the point of an asymmetrical ellipse, only adds to the dynamics of the composition.   Dustin’s use of color, which transitions from a cool blue violet at the base to warm gold tones at the peak, furthers the effect.

This brooch, which appears so casual at first glance, presents a deep understanding various elements of composition.   And, as your mother surely told you, making a positive first impression is always important.

I cannot remember a time in my life that I wasn't interested in looking at art, talking about art and the making of art. In 1990 I earned a Phd in art history at the University of Maryland. My first experiences with polymer clay were in 1992, but I consider my real work with the medium to date from 1999.