Marjorie Schick’s work is rooted in the European jewelry revolution of the 1960s when innovators, rejecting the traditional materials, techniques, and social meanings of Western jewelry, began to employ the entire human frame—not just a finger, neck, or wrist—as a point of artistic departure. Schick herself views the body as a “living sculpture,” and, using painted wooden dowels and other ordinary materials, constructs additional sculptures with which to adorn it.
Since the body can support large objects—both physically and visually—Schick often fabricates works whose size is startling: a brooch that extends far beyond the wearer’s shoulder, animating the surrounding space; a necklace so large it creates its own physical environment; a piece worn on the shoulders that encases the entire head, framing or bisecting the face. Although each construction is designed for placement on the body, her works nonetheless function as independent sculptural statements.
Marjorie Schick’s jewelry is equally based on the traditions of twentieth-century abstract art—in particular, constructivism. So strong is the relationship with fine art, her sculptural pieces have been described as abstract art with its roots in jewelry. The artist writes: “there are four major aspects to my work: the constructed, three-dimensional form; the color relationships; the definition of space; and the scale of the objects in relationship to the human figure.” Her principle goal, she states, is to create a “visual tension” among the formal elements of her bright, skeletal constructions.
A powerful, tensile energy results from the dynamic manner in which she arranges bright colors, lines of different length, and sharp angles of intersection. Schick refers to these colorful linear constructions as “three-dimensional drawings to wear.” Instead of marking lines and colors on a surface, she creates her three-dimensional “stick” drawings for spaces that exist at the boundaries of the head, torso, and limbs.
Neckpiece (1986) [1993.54.13] is designed to be placed over the head and rest on the shoulders. The complex of dazzling lines thus visually segment the wearer’s head, energizing the immediate spatial field where the body and jewelry interact. The dazzling sequence of dots and intersecting lines of vivid color are seen not only from the outside by the viewer, but at the same time, experienced from “inside” be the wearer. A lively tension between subject and object, and figure and ground is produced—a tension that is key to understanding Schick’s work as a whole.
Jeremy Adamson KPMG Peat Marwick Collection of American Craft: A Gift to the Renwick Gallery (Washington, D.C.: Renwick Gallery, National Museum of American Art, Smithsonian Institution, 1994)