Visiting this year's Master Metalsmith exhibit at the Metal Museum is a bit like walking into the most famous and frequently recreated panels in comic book history. Even if you're not a funny book fan, you know the scene because no retelling of Batman's origin story is complete without several close up images of Martha Wayne's pearls as they fall away from her neck — falling, bouncing, and rolling in all directions as the bad guy gets away. The focal point of Lisa Gralnick's "Scene of the Crime" installation is a similarly broken and scattered string of pearls, only in this case, the beads are bigger than bowling balls and the strand takes up the better part of a room.
The pearls are joined by enormous earrings, a fancy barrette, and a few other glittery objects spilling out of a Barbie pink jewelry box as big as a bed. There's also a wedding band, an engagement ring, implications, and many things left unsaid. Inspired by the loss of the artist's mother, the pop-artwork mixes childlike whimsy and wonder with an outsized sense of personal violation.
"Whether you are writing about the work, photographing it, or organizing loans from collectors, family, and friends, by accepting a role in the planning and execution, you are stepping into a personal space with the artist," Metal Museum Executive Director Carissa Hussong writes in her introduction to the exhibit catalog. "You are accepting an invitation to take part in the artist's journey." The same can probably be said for observers.
This year's Master Metalsmith retrospective also includes examples of Gralnick's jewelry, which is inspired by architecture and industrial imagery, and sometimes asks just how much of the artist's self can really be embedded in their work. "The Gold Standard" exhibit was inspired by a moment when the artist contemplated melting down past work in order to make a downpayment on a house. It's comprised of many everyday objects cast in plaster and gold, with the amount of gold reflecting the monetary value of the represented commodity at the time of its creation.