• Nancy Cook

Beyond the Gallery: "Master Metalsmith: Lisa Gralnick" - Jewelry


The Metal Museum’s 2018 Master Metalsmith is Lisa Gralnick, a jeweler, sculptor, and Professor of Art at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Lisa completed her BFA at Kent State University, Kent, OH, studying under Mary Ann Scherr and Mel Someroski. She then went on to receive her MFA from the State University of New York, New Paltz, studying under Kurt Matzdorf and Bob Ebendorf. During her time in graduate school and her first teaching positions at Kent State University and Parsons School of Design, New York, NY, Lisa’s focus was enameled jewelry using gold and silver. However, in the early 1980s, she turned away from enameled jewelry and began working exclusively in black acrylic. This change in direction resulted in the Black Acrylic series of brooches, bracelets and earrings, which were the subjects of Lisa’s first major gallery exhibitions in Washington, D.C., New York, and Amsterdam.


Lisa Gralnick. Brooch, 1987. Black acrylic. Courtesy of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, the Daphne Farago Collection, 2006.220. Image courtesy of George Erml.

This dramatic change in the direction of her work became a pattern for Lisa, often prompted by major life events, such as moving to a new city or the death of a loved one. She went from working in black acrylic to creating a series of gold brooches in the early 1990s. Then came a series of kinetic pins, pendants and necklaces created from sterling silver called the Mechanical series. Each series is a cohesive body of work, informed by prodigious research. As part of her exhibit, Lisa wanted to showcase the wide breadth of materials, concepts, and processes used in her jewelry. Nine of Lisa’s jewelry series are represented in the Museum’s Keeler Gallery, including two series that have never been shown before.


Lisa Gralnick. Thirteen Facet Necklaces, 2016-2018. Sterling silver, 18K gold. 4th from Left: Collection of Theresa Abel. All others Courtesy of the Artist. Image courtesy of Jim Escalante.

The Facet Necklaces on display are Lisa’s newest series of jewelry. When describing this new series, Lisa stated:


"The new Facet series came from experimentation with casting hollow forms that combine the rich textural possibilities of casting with the crisp geometry that is usually indicative of sheet fabrication. Many of them are two-step castings in which the silver is cast first and then gold is cast into the silver form. Faceted forms are nearly always associated with gemstones that serve as the focal points in jewelry, but I was interested in a more iconoclastic and tropological approach – powerful faceted forms as cultural collateral, rendered as deteriorating, porous, hollow objects that reflect decaying values and the pendulum-swinging fatuity of the times.”

Lisa Gralnick. Facet Necklace #3, 2017. Sterling silver, 18K gold. Courtesy of the Artist. Image courtesy of Jim Escalante.

Another series never shown previously is Lisa’s teaching work. Lisa’s career as a teacher and relationship to her students has had a profound effect on her work. When discussing her teaching samples in the exhibit, Lisa explained:

"My career as an artist has been deeply informed by my teaching methodology and my deep love of teaching. Over the course of three decades, I have produced a rather sprawling collection of works that were made as demonstration pieces and teaching samples. These works have never fit neatly into the larger trajectory of my development as an artist, and, for that reason, I have never before exhibited them. However, they do represent a certain idiosyncratic element of my practice that has been important to me, and they have allowed me to approach making with a lighter, more playful and less heady agenda. Exhibiting these teaching pieces at the Metal Museum feels like the ultimate act of making public that which has been hitherto a private conversation with my students.”


Lisa Gralnick. Eight Enamel Brooches (patterned Limoges teaching samples), 2001-2017. Sterling silver, enamel on copper, pearls, assorted gemstones. Courtesy of the Artist. Images courtesy of Jim Escalante.

Master Metalsmith: Lisa Gralnick | Scene of the Crime is currently on display now through January 13, 2019 at the Metal Museum. To learn more about the Master Metalsmith exhibition series, you can visit the link here.

To purchase the catalog for Master Metalsmith: Lisa Gralnick and learn more about Lisa’s life and work, you can click the link here.

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