All of you out in JewelryLand may know about this incredible artist already, but I just learned about her, and boy was I blown away! Rebecca (Bekka) Ross Russell has been creating jewelry and metalwork since 2001, and creates truly unique pieces, most often customized for particular clients. Some of her items are quiet and humble, and some are shouting something – all are incredible pieces of art. And besides all this, she is also a talented academician and philanthropist – someone I would truly be honored to meet.
I ran across her by stumbling upon a dissertation she wrote, and the book she subsequently wrote based on that dissertation. The book is called Gender and Jewelry: A Feminist Analysis. I have always found it to be fascinating to ponder our reasons for adorning ourselves, for creating adornments, and even for our sometimes-obsessive relationship with jewels, crystals, stones, beads, and jewelry art in general. This artist tackles this question at the core.
Ms. Russell is a graduate of Tufts University’s prestigious combined degree program in conjunction with the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, holding a Bachelor’s of Fine Arts in metalworking and jewelry and a Bachelor’s of Arts with a major in women’s studies. (She may have a doctorate now, based on the fact that she wrote the dissertation, but this is the biographical information I have found so far.) In any case, the dissertation and book grew out of her ongoing process of questioning the societal underpinnings other chosen medium, one she has worked in since she was a teenager. Her target audience was the scholarly community in general, but also “conscientious jewelers”, and her subject – the origins of jewelry traditions and the political and social statements (often unconsciously) conveyed through choice of adornment.
Her premise is that jewelry responds to our most primitive urges – for control, honor, and sex. It is at once the most ancient and most immediate of art forms, one that is defined by its connection and interaction with the body. In this sense it is inescapably political, its meaning bound to the possibilities of the body it lies on. Indeed, the fate of the body is often bound to the jewelry. Her study looks at gender and jewelry in order to gain some understanding into how jewelry is constructed by – and constructs – not just a single society, but human societies. It explores how societal traditions that have sprung up around jewelry and ornamentation have affected the possibilities available to women across a broad spectrum of social and ethnic circumstances, determining which have served women well, and which are constrictive and destructive. The book also examines (and this is most exciting to me) the possibilities for the intentional creation of feminist jewelry.
Rebecca’s own work serves as a sort of groundbreaking ‘role model’ in this regard. Even the titles of her artistic creations (e.g., 'waternecklace', & 'on their shoulders') celebrate women’s dignity, sacred and beautiful nature, and a non-abusive culture. I strongly urge you to peruse her web site, blog and gallery, which can be found at: www.rcubedjewelry.com
In the meantime, check out the single, lovely example shown here -- just to give you an idea of the treat you're in for if you take the time to learn more about this incredible woman! Oh, and don't forget to check out what she's doing in the philanthropy world -- she founded a nonprofit called The Small Things to support kids and staff at the Nkoarango Orphanage in Tanzania.
If you enjoyed this blog post, you might also enjoy the post on Beaders to the Rescue.