Kean Professor Jennifer Crupi Featured in New Smithsonian Exhibit


Kean University Professor and Oceanport, NJ resident Jennifer Crupi’s fine art jewelry is featured in the Renwick Gallery’s newly reinstalled permanent collection. Her design, Ornamental Hands: Figure One, was selected from the over 2000 craft works to be included in the new exhibition, Connections: Contemporary Craft at the Renwick Gallery. A national historic landmark, the Renwick is home to the Smithsonian American Art Museum’s collection of contemporary craft and decorative art. The new exhibit opened to the public July 1 and is on view indefinitely.

“It is a privilege to be a part of the Smithsonian American Art Museum's Renwick collection,” said Crupi. “As a teaching artist, I see it as my mission to create work that pushes the boundaries of the field. My own professional practice challenges students to think about jewelry and metalsmithing differently and to consider it an expressive art form that can communicate on many levels.”

Crupi’s work addresses the ways we communicate with each other visually, through body language. Handcrafted of sterling silver or aluminum, her one of a kind jewelry and interactive objects become instruments for gestural behavior.

Ornamental Hands recreates the elegant hand positions depicted in artworks throughout the centuries. Each work consists of attachments for the fingers that are suspended by chains and braced on the wrist, neck or hand, positioning the fingers marionette-style. Rather than serving merely an adornment, Crupi’s jewelry positions the hand in a decorative way. The splint-like aesthetic of the pieces plays with the idea of training the hand to rest in this graceful manner, functioning almost like a corset or restrictive beauty aid.

Crupi was invited, along with several of the other artists whose works are included in Connections, to develop a video illuminating her own personal connection to one of the objects in the installation. Crupi’s video, which features her Kean University class, is currently featured on the Smithsonian website.

Curated by Nora Atkinson, the exhibit focuses on the interconnectivity of objects and the overlapping stories they tell rather than using a display format based on chronology or materials. Objects are organized to mimic an analog version of the Web, using an associative approach derived from the way we navigate today’s “hyperlinked” world. Visitors are encouraged to find their own path through a vast network of possibilities that highlight explicit connections as well as subtle, unexpected resonances among the artworks on view.

“Craft objects do not exist in a vacuum,” Atkinson said. “Each artwork tells many stories, and each is made even more interesting through relationships to other objects and ideas. As that object continues to develop meanings and spawn questions through contact with other artworks, it remains vital in a changing world.”

The featured artworks, which include iconic favorites alongside recent acquisitions, range from the 1930s through today and comprise a variety of media. In selecting both pioneering and contemporary pieces, Atkinson explores the underlying current of craft as a balancing, humanistic force in the face of an efficiency-driven, virtual world and disposable material culture. Her presentation particularly highlights the evolution of the craft field as it transitions into a new phase at the hands of contemporary artists who are untethered by the medium-based distinctions of the past and who effortlessly incorporate new ideas and technology into their work.

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