Delicate Materials


Refers to the use of materials that can easily break or tear or that appear as though they could. In design and art history, certain styles have emphasized delicacy, as with the spindly forms found in the Rococo, Art Nouveau, or Art Deco periods. An emphasis on fragile materials can also be found in folk, decorative, or craft traditions, as in the delicate lace workmanship of Burano, Italy, or the intricate wood and ivory carving of Islamic art and architecture, with Spain’s Alhambra Palace functioning as a prime example. In southeast China, the tradition of lacquer thread sculpture, a process that involves applying threads by hand to a lacquered base to create exceptionally intricate embossed designs, has been practiced since the 17th century. Contemporary examples include such artists as Jacob Hoshimoto, who creates paper kite installations that almost float, and Dale Chihuly, whose glass sculptures include an impressive amount of detail and filigree forms. As with their predecessors, such artists use their materials to evoke a sense of impermanence and to demonstrate their mastery of fragile media.

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