Date of Award
Master of Fine Arts (MFA)
Jewelry and Metalsmithing
Handle pays homage to the everyday object. Since Duchamp’s appropriation of the porcelain urinal with his work The Fountain (1917), we have been conceptually challenged to prod the notion of what art can be. While Duchamp denied utility, my process shifts and redefines originally intended utility in the context of enamelware. Through my work, I re-situate these everyday objects made from enameled metal, onto the body as jewelry.
Historically, the objects that comprise enameled domestic kitchenware objects—from pots and pans to spoons and forks to bowls and plates—were common objects, and were handled and utilized everyday. Once massproduced and ubiquitous in domestic settings, today they live in anonymity as anonymous pieces in antique stores. Separated from their respective histories, these unassuming vintage objects carry the signs of wear and gradual material degradation due to their long-term use. Within this body of work, they now act as historical signifiers that inform my understanding and transformation of what was once handled.
Handle is meant to challenge our preconceived notions of how enamel has perceived through its use in fine jewelry or conversely, how it has been used at a utilitarian level, such as in the production of bathtubs or road signs. Through the transposition and deconstruction of its anatomy into separate parts, my objective in this body of work is to re-value collectible domestic enamelware.
Handle also calls upon how enamelware bears a physical record of use, such as degraded and chipped parts, as well as the beautiful patina of rust on steel—the result of surface deterioration over time. In both the markings that reveal their history and the wide range of forms and component parts, these found objects possess an inherent potential for transformation. This allows them to re-perform in the world through new relationships with the body.
Made by machine, altered by the hand, to be worn on the body.
Poh, Wei Lah, "Handle" (2015). Masters Theses. 16.