Myers School of Art:
4/10/2019 - 4/15/2019
The University of Akron, Myers School of Art, BFA Concentration in Metalsmithing BA Art Education, 2019
Alex Morrison is an artist born and raised in Akron, Ohio. As a practicing metalsmith she chooses to make work that centers around a cultural theme. Her production line of jewelry, titled Crooked River Jewelry, is inspired by the landscape and the people she grew up around in the Cuyahoga Valley. Using cast grapevines found in her childhood backyard, or etched maps, she creates artifacts from pieces of her hometown. In her larger scale studio work she creates pieces of jewelry to adorn the body in unsuspecting ways; inspired by the cultural jewelry worn by indigenous people of Ghana, West Africa, a place that she has spent considerable time and holds close to her heart. Through her work she aims to bridge the gap between these two cultures, showing the influence one can have on the other. Most importantly, however, she hopes to create a visual narrative through this body of work that tells her story of her time in Ghana. Alex is currently a candidate to receive a BFA in Jewelry and Metalsmithing and BA in Art Education from the University of Akron’s Myers School of Art. Through the Myers School of Art she has received awards such as The Ron and Mary Switzer Metalsmithing Award, The Dashiell Travel Grant funding travel to Munich, Germany to attend Munich Jewelry Week and the Gillette Travel Abroad Scholarship funding travel to Paris in 2018. Over the last five years at The Myers School of Art Alex has gained professional experience in the field of commercial jewelry, selling and designing custom jewelry, facilitating repairs and most recently as a jewelers apprentice for Signet Jewelers.
Jewelry is a form of art that is uniquely different than all others is physically worn by the viewer, it doesn’t simply exist to appeal to the eye but to adorn the body. It is an existential form of art that physically connects the artist and the wearer in a certain bond that is unlike the impact of other works of art. This physicality is what has drawn me to making jewelry, its ability to provide comfort, to take on the essence of it’s wearer, to give confidence and to draw the attention of others; it doesn’t simply live in a gallery or stay confined to the availability of a wall to be displayed against - it tags along boldly onto the streets and becomes a companion to it’s wearer. In making this body of work I have pushed the boundaries of typical scale and conventions of adornment, drawing inspiration from traditional West African jewelry these large scale necklaces and waist jewelry spark conversation when worn. This collection of jewelry is my story, a journey through the time I spent living and teaching in Ghana, West Africa.
Sāl’minga is a slang term in Ghana that I realized very quickly only applied to me as it translates to ‘white woman’ in english. As I would walk through town I would hear “Sāl’minga, Sāl’minga” being called to me both from shop owners trying to sell me things or children who would wave sheepishly at me and then run away. It is an interesting experience to be an anomaly in another culture, some were accepting while others were very much not. The day to day routine of living and working in Ghana was taxing and taught me a lot of lessons that I hold dear, but also a few I’d rather forget. I left Ghana on poor terms due to a car accident that I was involved in, I was only a passenger but because of the color of my skin much more blame was placed on me than others, Ghana had become an unsafe place for me after that point and I needed to get home. I suppressed the feelings I had about that experience, the endless nightmares and the emotional triggers for a long time, until I began this body of work. Through the process of making of these pieces of jewelry, I have given myself time to process and to heal these negative feelings and it has left me with a very positive view of my time spent in Ghana. The resulting works fit my body specifically, in a way a sort foarmor against the cruelty I met and a comforting reminder of the positive experiences I had - which far outweighed the bad.
Each piece in this collection started with a reflection of a specific memory, a cultural difference that I encountered or a simple observation. Through journaling I have been able to not only work through my own thoughts on these moments but also make better sense of how to verbalize that to others who have never experienced what it is like living in Ghana. As I dove deeper into my experiences I was able to draw connections to the history of my own culture and how even though the two seem so polarizing they really have many parallels. I have used traditional Ghanian materials and techniques such as hand dyed fabric and brightly colored cotton thread juxtaposed against laser cut acrylic and commercial gold plated chain to create a visualization of these similarities and differences. I have used traditional Ghanaian ways of adornment such as pieces that fit on the waist as an homage to the tradition of waist beads worn in Ghana by women and children and large scale necklaces that reference the traditional bridal jewelry worn in Ghana.
As I wear these pieces myself I am immediately overwhelmed with the memories that are contained in each piece. My focus through the selection of works in this exhibition it to create a visual narrative of my experience, to educate and inspire. I hope that viewers will think twice about cultural differences after seeing this show and I hope to start a conversation about them.I hope to inspire anyone with repressed feelings or memories to allow the creation of art to heal them or to at least begin the process. I hope to open the minds of my viewers to the beautiful landscape, people and culture of Ghana - and to present my western vision of my personal experiences. While I never wish to appropriate the culture of Ghana as my own I do feel a strong connection to it and I am both humbled and proud to have had the experience that I did.