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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Oh what a perfect topic for my new line. I have been thinking about this all year because I am using hair and resin in my new work. I did some research on the 'abject' explained by Julia Kristeva, and anyone interested in this subject should definetly try to familiarize themselves with it. To my understanding abject emotions arrive one someone is faced with something that turns their world upsidedown. When something challenges our very understanding of everyday civilized society. Things like corpses, vomit, excremint, these things attack life and present to us the very fact of death. Very interesting stuff. What is most interesting is Kristeva explains that we are drawn to these very things that repulse us. Sort of like a car crash where you can't look away, but you are sickened at the same time.

I don't intentionally draw from these ideas in my work, but when I looked into it, I realized that by useing hair in a non ornamental way (not braided or set behind glass etc.) I was turning the natural order of hair around. Hair is meant to be discarded and removed from civilized society and I am making jewellery out of it. And also in my hair collar I make the hair look alive and it swirls round the neck, but it also looks a bit like a big clump of hair you find in the drain, so it combines the ideas of both alive and dead hair. I love the dichotemy of hair, that it is beautiful on our heads and repulive once it has fallen. I also find hair off the body beautiful, and the shapes it makes, they are like drawn lines on the bathtub or the washroom mirror. :)

In terms of jewellery I noticed the trend to use 'non-precious' materials in contemporary jeweery and reay enjoy it. I was encouraged to 'beautify' my hair work many times during my MA and I decided it aready was beautiful and didn't need things like pearls or gold. I actually went gold panning in Scotland with the plan to put god flakes in my resin work. When I didn't find any, I realized that hair is a product of our bodies just like gold and gemstones are products of the earth. I started thinking about the heirarchy of materials and why something the earth produces almost as a bi product of shift and change should be considered beautiful and valuabe, but often only after it is controled and changed. Why should something like hair that my own body grows and works on and life changes, should not be just as valuable. I think others are starting to realizes this, or at least see the beauty in what repulses us. :)

There has been a study on this very fact that we find things that belong on the body like hair, and fingernails, beautiful as long as they are attached but repulsive once removed.
I'm sorry but hair in jewelry is not a new thing. That is not to say that your work is not interesting. Have you looked at Victorian hair jewelry? The tradition of using hair as ornament has been around for quite some time. It does seem like your motivation for using these materials does differ from the Victorians who used hair as a way of remembering the deceased or a love one. It seems like you are more interested in showing that the abject is beautiful which is fine, however the thing about repulsion and disgust is that they are subjective. What is disgusting to one person is no big deal to another.
Yes I definetly agree. Did I say hair in jewellery is new? Sorry not what I meant. I have researched mourning jewellery a lot and was recently commissioned to create wedding rings encorporating hair like 1800 Victorian mourning jewelery. I often hear this comparison to mourning jewelery when people see my work, but I see the use of hair to be very different. Mourning jewellery respects the societal rule that Katja mentioned about some body elements being appealing on the body and repulsive off. Mourning jewellery locks hair behind glass, uses it like a line in a drawing, or braids it so it is reminincent of the hair that is beautiful on the body. In my work, like you said I am interested in how the abject qualities of hair off the body can be intrigueing. I try to conjure up images of clumps of hair being pulled from the drain or sticking to the shower wall. I find these shapes beautiful, others may not, but I try to show what I see.
I feel that repulsive art is like swearing, intentionally used as an aesthetic and a flare gun to attract attention or protest. It is often quite effective- However art as a means of a statement should be consumable by as many people as possible. Repulsive art may be censored, condemned or repressed by society remember the Virgin Mary/Excrement thing 15 or so years ago... Sure made the artist famous but the message got lost.

I feel that if you are creative enough you do not need to lower your artistic standards to attract said attention.

It' cheap and easy.... Use your mind for gods sake-

That brings another thought do you shock for FAME or for protest- If its for fame, find another profession because you are a Poser and will be exposed as such.
Hmm, there may be some confusion over 'repulsive'. Like Aliyah Gold said what people find discus ting is subjective. Some people find overtly sexual art discus ting, or satirizing religion offencive. I thought we were talking about aesthetic repulsion not repulsive ideas....but of course they may be one in the same...

I don't think repulsive art has to be for fame or for protest. It may be exploring why we find some things beautiful and others repulsive. How we separate the two. I never saw the 'Virgin Mary/Excrement thing', but it sounds like the artist was mixing something that is considered holy with something that is not. I don't know why the artist did it, but if they got fame for it fine. The fame they received shouldn't decrease the validity of the work.

If you think it is cheap and easy so be it. But that is what sells and if people take advantage of it good for them. But that is not my intention when I work with 'repulsive' aesthetics.
Whoa there. To posit that "repulsion" is not an idea worth exploration, but rather a gimmick simply employed to garner attention is both untrue and unfair. Illuminating work can come from examining what we fear, what we disdain, and what we are repulsed by. It is in that careful examination of the repulsive that we better understand ourselves. Just a thought....


I'm a bit late to this discussion, but it's coming up again with my own work and thought I'd comment.  I just lectured about the work Paul Bierker referenced to my Art Appreciation students last Friday.  You are referring to Chris Ofili's painting, The Holy Virgin Mary, which was destroyed by an offended visitor because Ofili used elephant dung and pornographic images in rendering of the Madonna.  We had a lively discussion on whether or not the artist was successful in making a valid work of art.  It can’t be denied that his message was completely ignored because he chose to use “repulsive” materials.  Which begs the question: “what were his real intentions?” to offend and be edgy (because that is what gets you recognition) or to comment on identity (which is what Ofili claims was his original message).

I agree, to shock for fame is selfish and provides nothing for the benefit of culture.  It also adds to the wall of frustration surrounding the art world.  The general public already has enough misunderstanding of art.  Using repulsive imagery or materials is walking a fine line over aesthetics and not being taken seriously.  I think a good artist will consider the message in every aspect of making, including materials.  Really, it comes down to common sense.

I disagree that art "should be consumable by as many people as possible". I think art should give the viewer a strong emotional reaction. Repulsion is also a valid emotion.
I agree, Art is not always pretty. It should get a reaction from the viewer.


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