The Loop: Coming Full Circle

Chicago, Illinois
MAY 22 — 25, 2019

By: Pasha Moezzi
Published: 2019/08/15

Canadians at SNAG

This past May was our jewellery tribe’s biggest get together: the 50th annual SNAG conference.  After 50 years, it came back full circle right where it started: Chicago! That is a milestone indeed. Considering my passion for architecture and city planning, you can probably imagine how excited I was to be visiting the city where the first skyscrapers and apartment buildings were erected. 

Another one of my passions is socializing and connecting with all sorts of people, especially those who share my interests. Having been selected as a Connects Council Leader for SNAG, I was particularly excited to assemble a big group of us to represent the North this year. Also, since Chicago is so close to both Toronto and Montreal we did have a bigger turn out in terms of Canadian participants and attendees. It was truly great to see so many familiar faces from Canada. Unfortunately, SNAG decided to terminate the Connects Council position due to budgeting and planning issues, two months before the conference. It was a bit disappointing since I was in the midst of a lot of communication with others regarding attendance but I tried to accommodate everyone to the best of my abilities and was certainly happy with our turnout.

I will cover the highlights of this trip with some events that I thought were pretty darn amazing, including some Canadian-related events! I also have to mention that I did not sign up for the actual conference this year as frankly, it was too expensive for me. I also realized that most of the events I was interested in were open to the public and did not need conference registration. As a result, I will not be covering any of the talks or workshops being held at the conference but rather the events off site. This was not ideal for me to do but I figured if I cannot afford the whole conference, why not just go to enjoy some great jewellery and people?

Aurélie Guillaume’s work at Galerie Noël Guyomarc’h’s pop-up exhibition

The first event I attended was hosted by our very own Noël Guyomarc’h. It was a pop-up event at his hotel room which I thought was very genius. Once again, Noël with his detail-oriented eyes and spectacular taste curated a very powerful exhibition using the bare minimum. He had carefully grouped works of different artists that complemented each other very well and had a minimal approach to the displays which allowed the work to speak for itself. 

When I entered the room, my eyes went directly to the mind-blowing collection by Montréal-based Aurélie Guillaume. Her work is always breathtaking with its stories, unique colour palette, and out of this world enameling technique. I may have literally drooled over the piece shown below and once she told me the story, I was even more amused. I would share it here but I don’t think it would be very appropriate! Maybe you can ask her yourself next time you see her!  Aurélie’s work was very thoughtfully placed next to Don Freidlich’s glass pieces which again, I was blown away by. When looking around the room, I saw excitement and appreciation in the other visitors’ eyes. I thought about how grateful we should all be for people like Noël who are truly pioneers, working so hard for our contemporary scene within Canada and putting us on the map with so much pride. 

Mad for Hoops exhibition at Gallery 2052

Another event that stood out for me was opening night at the fabulous Gallery 2052. Nora McCarthy is the superwoman behind this incredible space and I have so much respect for her and what she has been doing. That show left no room for criticism and definitely did not disappoint. I met Nora at the New Orleans conference in 2017 and right away, I knew she was going places. During the two years in between, she put pretty much all her time, energy, and money into this gallery and I could only bow to her for that. The gallery held three different shows simultaneously: the first being Mastery in Jewelry & Metals: Irresistible Offerings, curated by Gail M. Brown. This show is a must-see and if you did not get a chance to visit it personally, make sure to check it out on Gallery 2052’s Instagram account. In their own words: “an exhibition of masterful works by makers who have worked for more than 25+ years, have achieved substantial visibility and recognition, studio and exhibition history, and whose unique ideas have been innovating and celebrating jewelry, objects and sculpture and enhancing the story of American studio jewelry and metalsmithing.” I believe that says it all about the powerful works on display, but do check it out. After this beautiful and well-lit room, there was another space adjacent, which held the Mad for Hoops earring exhibition. It was such a diverse assortment of hoop earrings mounted so meticulously and enticingly on the back wall that I felt like a kid in a candy store.

Louise Perrone with her Foiled Stay Cool installation
Image by: Dana Cassara

The back patio at Gallery 2052 and the famous ice cream truck!

In the centre and on the surrounding walls of the space were the gallery’s regular artists’ works on display. After this came the back patio where the heart of this opening party was at! At its centre was a very interactive and fun installation by another Canadian jewellery artist, Louise Perrone. Her playful ice cream cones were made out of a very intriguing flexible silver material (almost like the heat resistant material in spacecraft), mounted on several steel plates suspended from the wall. Just as I thought my brain could not take anymore, I noticed a bright pink ice cream truck at the back of the patio offering free ice cream! What an incredible opening and in all honesty, if I knew there was going to be another opening at Gallery 2052 like this one, I would travel just for that. I hope Nora and her whole team are incredibly satisfied with their hard work and organization of this event. 

The final exhibition that really left me in awe was this year’s instalment of Adorned Spaces. It was notably different when compared to previous years. The quality of work and the different participants’ innovative display methods really stood out. Adorned Spaces is by far my favourite show during SNAG as it is curated by members. I have a special place for it in my heart because I participated in 2017 in New Orleans and witnessed first hand the amount of work and planning that goes into it and this year it went well beyond my expectations. Seeing what people created in terms of display was magnificent. Lillstreet Art Center and the Allegheny Metals Collective’s displays stood out for me the most. Lillstreet’s approach was very minimal but they did an incredible job grouping the works, making it truly attractive to the eye. The Allegheny Metals Collective’s Amalgam of Rings showed 52 incredible rings by 52 artists and their brilliant display had me hovering over it for a good half an hour or more! Such a genius idea using very little material resulted in something so visually effective. Since all the works were rings, the repetition of the round shape in the display and the use of strings to create so much dynamism really did the trick for me. Allegheny Metals Collective is a Pittsburgh-based collective founded in 2015 by Katie Rearick, dedicated to exhibiting together and sharing knowledge through demonstrations and lectures. The people behind this display magic were Stacy Rodgers, Katie Rearick and Adrienne Grafton. 

Amalgam of Rings by Allegheny Metals Collective
Image by: Stacy Rodgers

A project lean by Kiff Slemmons where artists are given paper tabs to draw on and then a necklace is made of them all.

On my last day in Chicago, along with a few friends, I paid Kiff Slemmons’ studio a visit and am I glad I did so. Kiff gave a talk at the conference which everyone was talking about and since I have always been very interested in her work and history, I was quite upset I did not get to attend. When my friend offered to take me there for a quick visit, I did not think twice. Kiff’s studio was at a very old and super charming artists’ building and the feel was just magical. There were opera singers’ voices echoing through the hallway as the elevator operator angrily shouted at us to not take any pictures but how could I not! I cannot express to you how I felt inside this building. Once we entered Kiff’s studio, there was a very nice young lady who welcomed us and I immediately started scoping the paper purpose process exhibition curated by Kiff herself for the SNAG conference. Kiff as had a long time fascination with paper and this exhibit was a prime example of that. Once again, our very own Aurélie Guillaume was in this show with her mesmerizing drawings in a few sketch books. As I was so deep in my own thoughts enjoying the show I did not notice Kiff’s float-like entrance! Once I heard my friend’s happy voice saying hi, I snapped out of it and turned around only to see the most elegant but humble lady with the brightest face and smile I have seen in a long time! It is one that brightens you right up for no reason and I could just read life in her eyes! I had a very pleasant chat with her and she went over some of her work with such excitement that it made me want to get back home, sit behind my bench and never leave. It was truly a magical end to my trip to meet and know such an incredible soul. If you are not familiar with Kiff and her work, I highly suggest you look her up. 

I am very glad I went to another SNAG event and am planning on attending the next conference in Philadelphia for sure. I have always believed in the power of community and the importance of giving back to it. Although SNAG is predominantly American, it is still an organization that belongs to all of us in North America. By showing more of our colours at these events, we are really doing ourselves a favour and partaking in something that is very special. We should take advantage of it so I urge you to think about joining, presenting, exhibiting and especially voting for who you believe should be on board to represent you better at the next SNAG conference (or any other like-minded events) and bringing some attention to our many talented artists in Canada.