What Makes Keith Lewis’s Necklace Art Jewelry?


DOCUMENTING POLITICAL OR SOCIAL MOMENTS. Lewis uses anxious, electroformed fragile birdlike forms as evocative stand-ins for friends he lost to AIDS.

Keith Lewis, Dead Souls Neckpiece
Keith Lewis, Dead Souls Neckpiece, 1992, stainless steel, 14-karat gold plate, liver of sulfur patina, 9 13/16 inches (250 mm) in diameter, Museum of Arts and Design, New York; collection of Ron Porter and Joe Price, courtesy Museum of Arts and Design, New York; photo courtesy of the artist

The virus itself is represented, pure and inviolable as both the clasp of the necklace––binding the linksand as a compartment or locket to contain whatever will fit… Through graduating the size of the skull-like formswhich evoke medieval plague masksthe sequence represents both the wasting of the individual due to the disease and the proliferation of the disease from person to person to distant person. The interior of the locket contains a quote from the 19th-century French poet Gerard de Nerval: “Ou sont nos amoureuses? Elles sont au tombeau.” (“Where are our lovers? They are in the tombs.”) —Keith Lewis



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