A Thread of Jewels: The 6X collective's "Mistaken for Strangers" fills the A2 Art Center's Gallery 117 with wearable art


Brooke Marks-Swanson, Yellow Furrow

Brooke Marks-Swanson, Yellow Furrow, knit leather, oxidized silver 

The contemporary jewelry-making collective 6X makes interconnected, wearable artworks. The six-member group of Midwesterners explained their approach as part of its February exhibition at the Ann Arbor Art Center: “Ties, which may not consciously be acknowledged at a simple glance, are visible upon further consideration of approaches to concept, material, and process.” Thus, the title of the A2AC exhibit, Mistaken for Strangers, in its Gallery 117 space references the connectedness of their creative processes, which may not be immediately recognized by viewers. 

A2AC moved its Gallery 117 from the second to the first floor, allowing easier access for visitors who may have not been able to use the stairs previously. 6X has created a dynamic installation that emphasizes the collective’s desire to form relationships between their varied works. The group accomplishes its goal to visually connect seemingly disparate formal approaches, with two towers of open white boxes standing in the center floor space, each box containing a piece of jewelry, and additional pieces displayed on top of the boxes. 

A quote by Nadeem Aslam prefaces the gallery wall text: “Pull a thread here and you’ll find it’s attached to the rest of the world.” The concept of the threads that connect us is enforced visually not only by exhibiting the artists’ disparate works together but also through a two-part installation of white thread. The loom-like threads are suspended between two walls in one corner of the gallery, and a two-panel installation hangs from the ceiling above a series of pedestals displaying the artworks.

Melis Agabigum, When the Wind Blows a Song of Silence

Melis Agabigum, When the Wind Blows a Song of Silence, copper, sterling silver, enamel, cotton cord, beeswax

Melis Agabigum’s works examine “loss, repetition, and the notion of burden that individuals carry from their relationships.” Agabigum, originally from Michigan, currently works in Richmond, Indiana. She is both an artist and educator. She received her MFA from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee in Intermedia: Jewelry/Metals, Installation Art, Sculpture, and Fibers, and has taught courses at universities across the country, including the University of Michigan. Agabigum works with soft sculpture in her jewelry-making, creating delicate and detailed forms from materials such as cotton, beeswax, and metals such as copper and 14K gold. Her compositions often echo forms of the human body, which serve to “explore the unseen tether of the physical and emotional weights that affect individuals in how they perceive their connection to others, their bodies, and space.”

Rachel Andrea Davis, Mourning Brooch #9

Rachel Andrea Davis, Mourning Brooch #9, found wood, eggshell, gold leaf, watercolor, nugold, steel, from the collection of Zaque Harig

Rachel Andrea Davis is an artist and educator who has a Master of Arts from Kent State University and is pursuing a Masters in Fine Arts at the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee. Davis creates her works from found materials such as wood, which forms the substrate for her Mourning Brooch series. Davis frequently employs materials such as freshwater pearls, gold leaf, watercolor, NuGold, steel, ebony, fibers, and hair as compositional elements that contrast visually against the natural wood.

Joshua Kosker, Cubic Tangelo Cluster

Joshua Kosker, Cubic Tangelo Cluster (pendant), 2016. Tangelo peel, plywood, sterling silver. 2.5" x 4" x 2" (30" chain)

Joshua Kosker is an artist, jeweler, and educator based in Bloomington, Indiana. Kosker’s artist statement notes his atypical approach to jewelry-making, which “fuses traditional craft practices with experimental materials and processes.” Furthermore, his practice draws “from unexpected, commonly found, and often impermanent materials,” and explores concepts of time, place, materiality, object and the body.” Kosker includes works from his Tangents series, which feature geometric forms in vibrant orange hues. These pieces are created from preserved Minneola peels, a variety of Tangelo. He “cures” the peels like animal hides, then uses them to create his designs. Though Kosker’s exploration of the Tangelo extends beyond what is shown in this exhibit, the works at the Ann Arbor Art Center represent his unique approach to object-making, which addresses themes of consumerism and preservation. Among the works shown at the gallery are square tangelo earrings, pendants, or circular tangelo earrings, some with produce stickers, others without. In one work, Kosker wraps a Tangelo-shaped metal object in PLU (produce sticker) codes, tying his series firmly to commercialized production.

Brooke Marks-Swanson is based in South Bend, Indiana, and works primarily with textiles and metals. On her website and in her artist statement, Marks-Swanson notes that she “speaks of her Midwest roots through a universal language of textile and metal wearable art.” Marks-Swanson has exhibited extensively throughout the U.S. and internationally, and has been the recipient of numerous awards and museum purchases. She creates her wearable artworks with materials such as leather, pearls, silver, gold, Japanese fibers, and copper. Her works frequently employ the circle as a formal element in her diverse creations, from earrings to collars.

Masako Onodera, Memory Vessel #1 & Memory Vessel #2

Masako Onodera, Memory Vessel #1 & Memory Vessel #2, sterling silver, silver plated platter, brass, pearls, thread, stainless steel

In her intricate artworks, Masako Onodera explores what she describes as “the body altered by the tactile and visual characteristics of the object.” Onodera is a Minneapolis-based artist who cites the importance of working with craft techniques in her exploration of fine art. Onodera contributes works from her Memory Vessel series, which explores the idea of object histories. These works are open-faced metal vessels, with delicate decorative elements such as pearls and rose quartz. On her website, Onodera explains her fascination with the object, which can “exist for decades, centuries, or even millennia.” During this time, objects change from functional or “utilitarian to symbolic, from direct use by their owners to a ritual, indirect use.” Her artworks are an investigation into this common occurrence, asking viewers to consider that these objects have and may be worn again. 

Jina Seo, Oddly Familiar 1

Jina Seo, Oddly Familiar 1, copper, leather gloves, thread, fake lashes

Jina Seo presents works from her series Oddly Familiar, which employs everyday materials to explore her common themes of “the relationships between body, clothing, sexuality, fetish, and space.” Seo teaches Metal + Jewelry at Missouri State University and has exhibited both in America and internationally. In her artist statement for the exhibit, Seo elaborates on her process behind this series: "Through deconstructing and reconstructing materials into symbolic forms, I uncover the hidden intimate and sensual power of humanity. It is a moment when ordinary objects become surreal and uncanny in order to redeem the socially constructed expectations and perceptions."

Seo uses recycled leather gloves frequently in her compositions, which create a direct connection to the human body that once wore them. Leather is also a material frequently associated with fetishism in contemporary culture. Pairing this material with her bold, surreal compositional choices, Seo is able to divert and disrupt the typical association between material, form, and functionality of an object. 

6X brings a dynamic installation of innovative works that explore issues of the body, time and spatial relations, object histories, and the layers of interconnectedness between the artists’ approaches and execution of their works. The collective features six highly skilled artists with similar conceptual goals. Though their works may seem like unrelated “strangers,” together they form a narrative of commonality, “linking each member through various degrees of separation.”

Visitors to the newly remodeled space will gain insight into the intersection between fine art, craft, and metal-smithing that each artist embraces in their own style.

Elizabeth Smith is an AADL staff member and is interested in art history and visual culture.

The 6X Collective's Mistaken for Strangers is at the Ann Arbor Art Center through February 28.