Graduate Citings: DURAPS Edition with Kierra Aiello

Happy first day of Spring Quarter!
We hope you had an adventurous spring break filled with skiing, hiking, travelling, and all other things that make Denver such an exciting city to live in. Today, as part of our DURAPS series, we’re going to take you on a journey through Salvador Dali’s lesser known art medium: jewelry. At the 2017 DU Research and Performance Summit (DURAPS), master’s student Kierra Aiello will be sharing how Dali was able to transfer popular motifs such as of melting clocks and eyes into objects of gold and jewels. We hope you enjoy this snippet of Kierra’s scholarship and encourage you to stop by and see her at DURAPS!

Researcher: I am a master’s student enrolled in DU’s Art History Program.

DURAPS Presentation: Title- Love that Sparkles: The Jewelry of Salvador Dali

At DURAPS, I will be presenting my paper, Love that Sparkles: the Jewelry of Salvador Dali. In this paper, I analyze specific jewelry pieces that Salvador Dali created throughout his life.  Instead of looking only at gemstones and the karat value of the gold, like much of the scholarship on the subject, I take a look at Dali’s use of Surrealist motifs and his motivation to enter the jewelry medium. I hope to clarify some of the design choices made by the artist and connect many of his jewelry creations to his passionate love for his wife, Gala, and their shared love of fame and fortune. Through the presentation of this paper at an interdisciplinary symposium, I am hoping to discover new lenses through which I can view not only Dali’s work, but jewelry in general.

Part of the joy of studying art history at DU is taking a variety of courses, each of which has a different focus and requires a research paper. One must then fit their specialty into each course. Initially, I was taking a class on the art movements of Dada and Surrealism and I was completely stumped on how to align jewelry with artistic periods traditionally known for being off the wall eccentric and, in some cases, rejecting formal art practices all together. Where does one go when they have no idea what to research? Google. I stumbled upon the jewelry designs of Salvador Dali through a random search of Surrealism and jewelry and my interest only grew from that point. Jewelry by artists has become a regular part of my focus and it is the perfect vehicle for looking into the intersections between jewelry and art.

My current research focuses on jewelry made by artists and expands into the intersections jewelry has with more traditional definitions of “art.” In order to do this, I look closely at the jewelry creations of well-known artists such as Salvador Dali, Alexander Calder, Meret Oppenheim, Bernar Venet, and many others, as well as artist jewelry collectors, like Diane Venet, who owns and displays jewelry piece by over one hundred recognized artists. In some cases, the artists chose to use jewelry as a means of exploration and veer into new motifs and materials, at other times, they practically duplicate their other works into miniature gold sculptures that can adorn the body.

Historically, jewelry has been viewed as more of a “craft” than an “art,” and therefore has not been studied and analyzed the same way as painting and sculpture. Art historians constantly assess the life, motifs, materials, and practices of an artist, along with more foundational elements of the art itself, such as color, line, composition, etc. These thorough practices of studying and looking should, in my opinion, be used in jewelry study as well. I am currently attempting to make the intersections between traditional “fine art” and ornamental jewelry known by studying the materials, means of acquisition, uses, and designs of artist jewelry.

Collaborators: Dr. M.E. Warlick is one of the wonderful professors of the DU Art History department. She encouraged my work with Surrealist jewelry and helped me to understand the fundamentals of the movement. Now, she is my master’s research paper advisor and is currently helping me to hone my topic as well as expand into new areas. Dr. Annette Stott is another professor I am happy to have working with me on my research. She has helped me to reshape topics into papers and then continues to push me to rework the papers into concise and meaningful presentations for events such as the annual DU Art History Symposium.

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