"Seductive" is the word that best describes Bruce Metcalf's jewelry, whose themes derive from pre- and ancient history, nature's implacable persistence, and centuries of culture-based decorative art. With reference and reverence toward jewelry's characteristic sexual coding, he makes pieces that recall American Pop, Hans Bellmer's dolls, and Tex Avery's cartoons - all with the impeccable craftsmanship of Carl Fabergé, and all eminently wearable. Habitually large, necklaces and brooches may be riotously colored, pastel hued, monochromatic, white or black. Abstract forms, carved from wood or plastic, contiguous or clustered, suggest both flora and human body parts. Black Hédoné contains what appears to be tracery from a Gothic stained glass window, a crab claw, a pair of plump, juicy lips, and a female pudendum - the last tinted pink. Mix and Match boasts nautilus shells - an ancient and tribal symbol of fertility - along with leaf-like forms that suggest genitalia. Surfaces are smoothly sanded, further invigorating the sense of silky sensuality. Sometimes layered and seemingly chaotic, each work is admirably engineered - harmony conquering entropy.
Despite the provocative title, Metcalf's latest work probes deep philosophical issues. The 6th century Roman philosopher, Boethius, wrote "Nunc fluens facit tempus, nunc stans facit aeternitatum," in English: "The now that passes produces time, the now that remains produces eternity." Bowing to the latter precept, the mass of undulating elements that comprise his Delrin® and sterling silver brooch, Nunc Stans, presents itself as an acknowledgement of eternity by recalling the primal squirts that begin human life; but, at the same time, the forms appears in time-lapse, or stop-action, imagery - equally referencing the eternity in which nothing happens but where existence continues identical and unimpeded, in perpetuity.
A prolific writer and theorist on crafts, Bruce Metcalf is co-author (with Janet Koplos) of Makers: A History of American Studio Craft (2010). Metcalf was named Master of the Medium in Metal/Jewelry by the James Renwick Alliance in 2013; in 2014 he was designated a Fellow of the American Craft Council. His jewelry is represented in many museums, most notably the Metropolitan Museum of Art and Museum of Arts and Design in New York; Philadelphia Museum of Art, Philadelphia; The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; Victoria and Albert Museum, London; Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, Montreal; and Museum of Contemporary Art, 's-Hertogenbosch, The Netherlands.