A new Tributaries exhibition will open at the National Ornamental Metal Museum, featuring Chris Irick’s series, Flight. The artist will also give a public lecture at Memphis College of Art's Callicott Auditorium on February 23rd at 7 p.m. Flight is the result of a fascination with the history of both man-made and avian flight, exploring elegant engineering and ideas that never quite left the ground to combine fanciful contraptions with aspects from contemporary aeronautics. Irick's work reflects a particular interest in the design of turbine engines.
Irick received a BFA and MFA in jewelry and metalsmith arts from Texas Tech University and UMASS Dartmouth, respectively, and has instructed students in jewelry design and craft for many years. She is currently Professor of Metal Arts and head of the jewelry program at Pratt MWP in Utica, New York - an alliance between the renowned Pratt Institute in New York City and the Munson-Williams-Proctor Art Institute, an internationally recognized fine arts center. She has exhibited nationally and is included in the permanent collection of the Smithsonian American Art Museum.
One of the most interesting pieces to be displayed is the Gyroptere, patented in 1911 and built in 1914 in France. Known as the first air-jet helicopter, its design was based on the sycamore seed, which falls and turns on a one-blade rotor. A rotary motor was mounted onto the back of an axis of rotation, using a turbine to draw air in and then force it out through a nozzle at the tip of the contraption’s single blade.
The blade would turn rapidly, and the gyroscopic force of the motor was meant to lift the machine into a positive angle. The pilot, centered on a drum at the axis of rotation, controlled a separate air-duct to keep his seat from moving with the blade and provide forward thrust. However beautifully built, the apparatus was not a success. Tested in 1915 on Lake Cercey, the Gyroptere was wildly out of balance as the blade smashed repeatedly into the water.
Irick’s corresponding necklace has a series of 14k gold sheet wedges that slide into the silver die formed wing, to resemble the scientific model of the flying machine. When picked up, the gold wedges freely expand to allow the piece to be worn as jewelry. The opening reception for Irick's exhibition will take place on February 24th from 5:30 to 7 p.m.