A rising trend in jewelry/ornament design is the intentional use of a repulsive aesthetic. We do not use the term "repulsive" in a judgmental way, but rather as a descriptor of the artistic intent. To our knowledge, this is unprecedented in the history of ornament. It also represents one edge of an incredibly diverse spectrum of creative expression within our field, which is again unprecedented.

Having witnessed the reaction of the general public to our own aesthetic experiments, which are mild by comparison to some, we wonder how other artists feel about a repulsive aesthetic? How is this impacting your view of the field or your own work. How do you think this will evolve?

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The moment that draws people to museums to see great art is the moment when thought stops- when one's opinions are, just for a breath of time, beside the point- simply put it's a moment of pure thoughtless meditation.
Without words, we say to ourselves, "Oh, my- an elephant isn't just like a piece of rope, it's like a tree trunk, too!"
The question is, do I want a painting like that over my couch, to have with me day and night? Do I need to have a wad of hair from the drain hanging from my neck as I go about my normal business? In my case, no.
Discord is like Selenium, a rare element without which our bodies cannot thrive, but which quickly becomes a poison- Harmony is what we thrive on, rain and sunshine to our inner garden.
Love it or hate it, the repulsive aesthetic is changing, challenging and expanding our collective creative vocabulary. This does not seem to be a movement that is driven by social or political protest, but rather introspection. At first glance it appears to be galvanizing the artistic community. On the other hand, we already see an evolution of styles as the repulsive influences more traditional aesthetics and vice-versa.

Patricia, feels that shock jewelry is only shown in galleries, but never worn. This introduces the concept of the commercial viability and public acceptance of such work. This can be quite different from what we as artists make and accept. If the premise is true, why do galleries bear the expense to show work that is destined to not sell and not be worn?
I hope this trend is like Go-Carts. A fad soon to die a natural death. I personally don't like to look at gross objects, even if it is art. It is not intended to adorn the body, just hang in a exhibit making some kind of statement. I have seen enough real intestines to not enjoy looking at an artistic reproduction to wear as a brooch. Yuck!
I took my son and our Fresh Air visitor to an amusement park and I couldn't pry them loose from the go-carts. Driving is in their blood. The freedom of the open road! (In a loop.) So I would have to say that amongst the pre teens go-carts are making a big come back. Now if you had said "pet rock" that would be different. ;-)
Everything possible has or will be done at some point. I think the artist has to ask themselves what their point is and their mission (intent) with their work. Someone defined the differences between art and craft as "art is it's content and has to have meaning" and "craft is rooted in the process with an honesty of materials." Not that they need defining, but...
If repulsive is a characteristic that some people want to display, which I'm sure they exist, then there is a need. So I feel it's on the artist to consciously go after that market which then defines them. Personally I want to bring beauty to people's lives and enhance their aesthetic experience.
Beyond the socio-political criterion of beauty determined by the art market and the power of capital to transform the ugly, repulsive works must be seen in a cultural context.
Umberto Eco just released a treatise to contrast his treatise on beauty. On Ugliness covers the various aspects of ugliness and the grotesque through examples of visual art and literature samples.
Emergent subcultures aside, Eco quotes Schiller’s On Tragic Art (1792) “it is a general phenomenon of our nature that sad, terrible, even horrific things are irresistibly attractive to us; and that scenes of suffering and terror repel and attract us with equal power.” The uncanny, the avant-garde, the exposure of evil, the kitsch, the camp all could be considered repulsive and are rejected in their time and context. However only those examples found worthy of valuation (or monetization) will stand the test of time.
Personally, I subscribe to a philosophy closer to Elaine Scarry’s on Beauty and Being Just wherein beauty evokes justice through aesthetic balance but I prefer to insert a twist of subversive content.
And you insert that subversive content so well Sean. For those readers who have not seen Sean's work, it indeed is wryly twisted (and we say that with artistic admiration).

There is another aspect of the repulsive surfacing in this discussion-that of repulsive ideas. How does that square with the sentiments expressed? Is a visually beautiful piece of art that expresses a repulsive subject or concept substantially different than a visually repulsive piece that expresses an ideal?
Thank you for your kind words.

People that come immediately to mind: Goya, Heartfield, Grunewald, Rabelais, Bosch, Julia DeVille
I think a differentiation should be made between the expressions of the grotesque and the obscene. I ask if the depiction is seeking beauty against traditional parameters or constituting a journalistic integrity to relay an uneasy reality. Each perhaps being equally valid one must also decide whether artistic intent will/can/should outweigh public impact. Especially under threats of censorship, regarding an interpretation of a black Mary in the alien yet sacred substance of elephant dung, should one consider the more outrageous statements of the artist who seeks publicity and confrontational controversy over the possible positive interpretation of the work itself? Does the artwork stand on its own with a mere nod to the creator? Or does the work’s lifespan end at the hand of the artist?
to add on to Ricksons reply, i find that road kill fasinates me to the point that i want to create adornment that looks dead and rotten. I feel for the critters who die so tragicly, I think it would be a kind of mourning jewelry, a way to help people like me get past the sadness or help alert people who dont feel for the kill. Ill have to do some reasearch on this Kristeva myself!
So many interesting things have been said this is more of a general reply. I keep feeling like there is this strong distinction between beautiful and repulsive, but like Sean W Scully mentioned it's been established that 'horrific things are irresistibly attractive to us'. So what I am wondering is can't 'repulsive art' be beautiful at the same time?

I find art that is considered conventionally beautiful is boring, and therefore stops being beautiful in my mind. To me beauty is something that arouses curiosity, and makes me wonder why I want to keep looking at it. And then there is the idea that we are constantly being desensitised to what is off limits to look at and show as artists, and though we may not want to be repulsed, I like the idea of seeing beauty within repulsion.

Can something being repulsively beautiful?
I think culture defines what is or is not repulsive. For example I would find hairwork jewelry repulsive, but it was common during the 18th and 19th centuries, and probably not considered repulsive by most. I have seen lots of examples of reliquary work, that would not be in line with our current culture's popular aesthetic. From an art standpoint it's possible to find beauty in things one might not otherwise find beautiful. Insects are one example that comes to mind. I will be quite repulsed if a huge nasty spider drops down from from a tree whilst I was enjoying my curds and way, but make that same spider in platinum and set some sapphires in it and I will be delighted.

As to my own work, I feel that any time I do something wildly different (repulsive or not), it creates interest and brings in more people in than it turns away. Of coarse there's always a line that my audience would draw as to what is acceptable - drawn by cultural preferences, which, if crossed might be too far, but might also invite in the fringe. The conclusion to this kind of question is always that the individual artist has to ignore cultural definitions and find their own aesthetic to have a successful art piece.
I think it's interesting to see how differently everyone is reacting to the idea of repulsion. I think there are some who are equating it to being "ugly," "poorly designed," or being just unfinished and raw. There is also the idea that repulsion is something "gross," excrement, viscera, or even crude sexuality.

There is a precedence in art of using repulsion; the surrealists were strong believers in "Convulsive Beauty" (I am too.) The idea is that beauty is strongest when it is resonating with something repulsive- pulling and pushing you simultaneously. White is whitest in contrast with black.

The question is, are "repulsive jewelry artists" using it for the sake of being repulsive, or are they striving for something else. Repulsion is a tool to be used by artists; If a piece is created to be conceptual it really doesn't matter how repulsive it is as jewelry.

An appropriate dialog might be, how is conceptual repulsive jewelry influencing the other niches of jewelry?


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