Modern Light exhibit comes to Eau Claire

Galaudet Gallery features jewelry as art

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May 9, 2018


The Modern Light exhibit showcases handmade jewelry for sale from artists around the world.

After walking through old-fashioned doors into a dimly-lit house-turned-gallery, one can see necklaces, earrings and bracelets hanging against blank canvas backdrops or draped across rocks on wooden tables. Some of the jewelry is paired with prints of fruit, while others are paired with paintings inspired by the Badlands in South Dakota.

All of this is to add to the interest of the Modern Light exhibit, which Galaudet Gallery owner Vicki Milewski said is noteworthy due to its interactivity.

“I think jewelry is special,” Milewski said. “I also think that being able to touch art and put it on and wear it makes it even more special. Sometimes people come in and they’re not wanting to touch the art, but I think this is a unique one because it’s something you can take home and wear and have for years. It’s just different because it becomes a part of your life experience more than a painting does.”

Milewski said when they put out the international call for submissions for the Modern Light exhibit, she received responses from around 200 people, each with an average of three different pieces to show. However, the show is juried, which means two judges assess the artwork. Because this was a factor, the gallery only accepted work from 70 different artists.

While artists in this show range from from the United States to China, Italy and Canada, it lacks local artists. Because the gallery is collector-based rather than artist-based, Milewski said she and her brother Mike, who co-owns the gallery, don’t go searching for artists. She said the calls for artwork go out worldwide and community artists simply haven’t been responding.

All of the pieces are for sale and prices range from $5-$300 with most falling between $25-$50. Milewski said she wanted to make sure the jewelry is affordable so people would see it as not just art but as something they can take home and connect with.

Milewski said all of the jewelry is made from natural materials such as organic silk cord and wooden beads because of the health risks materials like lead and nickel pose, especially when they directly touch skin.

Local artist Nathan Carlsen, who has a collection of photographs featured in the gallery, said the Modern Light exhibit is much different than what he typically sees on display. He said he usually sees watercolors and native pieces at Galaudet, but he likes this new show.

Carlsen said the range of prices for the artwork. Because there are pieces that are at the lower end of the spectrum, he said people can just walk in and pick something up without breaking the bank. He said the setup of the gallery is appealing.

“Honestly, when I see jewelry being sold, it’s not hanging in a gallery. It’s in a box somewhere at the mall; even when it is custom, it’s at some stand at a fair,” Carlsen said. “I really like the idea of having a gallery and showcasing it well at eye-level just as photographs or a painting.”

Nov. 26 is Small Business Saturday and the gallery will have specials and treats. The same day, Milewski will also give a talk about the symbolism of jewelry, as well as about how jewelry relates to health.

The exhibit runs until Dec. 30. Milewski said next year’s plans are still in the works.