Lola Brooks is an artist and jeweler who has an exhibition on view at the Sienna Patti Gallery called “story of the eye: a subculture of ornamental oddities.” The exhibit features pieces made out of stainless-steel chain to create humorous pieces that are inspired by everything from surrealism to emojis and Man Ray. The artist speaks about her current exhibition, sentimentality in jewelry and why she loves the Victorian era.
Why do you love the Victorian era and how does it influence your work?
Lola Brooks: I have always been captivated by the Victorians, as it was a time when jewelry inhabited an important space within the cultural preoccupations of the times. Everything the Victorians did was encoded with layers of meaning ripe with love, and longings of gone, but not forgotten. They understood that materials and objects had meaning, and that these objects and materials all fell somewhere within the hierarchies of meaning that we create for ourselves in our daily lives. They were symbolic in everything they did, from the way they hung artworks on their walls, to the words they spelled out using gemstones or flowers. The Victorians taught me about embedded meaning and the inherent subtlety, richness, power, and possibility of communicating through objects and materials.
You’re also influenced by the postwar period, why was jewelry so sentimental back then?
During the Civil War, women who were in mourning for family members wore all black and replaced their glitzy jewels with the dark, somber, more introspective pieces. They wore brooches with locks of hair set and memorialized their love. Jewelry naturally becomes an empowered object of connection to the person who gave t to you during the times when you cannot be together, or once they are gone. Jewelry is always sentimental.
What approach do you take to your jewelry?
I think of myself as a storyteller, spinning tales through my jewelry. In this theatre of the absurd, I have appropriated my usual, sentimental clichés and feed them through the cultural shorthand of emoji. begging the viewer or wearer to reconsider their depth and power while celebrating the ridiculous and paradoxical nature of our current daily existence. I want this work to engage with people in ways that ask us to think beyond the object itself and into our shared, lived experience.
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What does this new series focus on, in reflecting on your time during the pandemic?
Over the past few years I’ve noticed a surge in the cultural fascination with mysticism, astrology and surrealism. With that, comes talismans, amulets and protective charms. This is no coincidence, but rather a clear response to our current daily existence. We are masked and isolated, living in the midst of a global pandemic. Every day we are forced to consider an onslaught of possible realities, never able to fully believe what we see. There is no doubt that we find ourselves in strange times, illogical, absurd, surreal and therefore these themes will be reflected in contemporary art and fashion. And it is no wonder that as a culture, many of us are searching for pathways that may lead us into new spiritual territory, within the maelstrom of today’s society. Generally, I am obsessed with desire and death, and all the love and beauty and horror that comes between, because these things are real. But amidst it all, it is laughter who will keep us on our feet. I know this for sure.