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Markers in Contemporary Metal: Exhibition Explores "Tradition" in the Field of Metalsmithing

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NEW PALTZ -- On January 30, 2002, the Samuel Dorsky Museum of Art (SDMA) reopens after the winter holiday with an exhibition titled Markers in Contemporary Metal. Markers addresses the intellectual and aesthetic influences that formal education has had on the art and craft of metalsmithing. Curators Jamie Bennett and Myra Mimlitsch-Gray developed the exhibition with works from the museum's permanent collection, augmented with important loans from notable artists, teachers, and collectors in the field of metal.

A public reception will be held at the museum on Tuesday, January 29 from 6:00 - 8:00 PM. The exhibition is on view through March 15. Affinities, a symposium related to the exhibition, is planned for Saturday, February 2 from 9am - 12 noon.

By its very nature, metalwork is an artform that demands great focus and technical skill. A seemingly unyielding medium, metal takes form through meticulous design and execution by expert craftsmen.

During the research and selection stage of developing this exhibition, Bennett and Mimlitsch-Gray were inspired by the rich sense of tradition that permeates the works. In the Gallery Guide, available at the museum, they state:

"Tradition in the field of metalsmithing is defined by craft processes, materiality, formal and functional consequence. All of these artists can be evaluated in terms of how they individually embrace, subvert, reject, or reference tradition for the purposes of irony, conformity, empathy or betterment. The exhibition engages these ideas by a careful arrangement of related works."

Objects on view range from innovative jewelry forms for which " the body is the locus for physical, visual and conceptual engagement," to utilitarian and presentation objects which "explore the historical and contemporary nature of function."

While tradition informs their critical approach, the artists in Markers In Contemporary Metal also share a common academic experience. A number of them graduated from the world-renowned metals program at SUNY New Paltz and have gone on to become prominent figures in contemporary metal. Others have taught or presented master classes at the university, and many are represented in the museum's permanent collection.

Although they share a common academic background, this closely-knit group of practitioners nevertheless demonstrates an impressive breadth of individual creative expression.

Markers In Contemporary Metal enables museum goers to consider how the objects on display are marked by their associations, by the intent of the arts, and by their existence in a particular time and context. The curatorial statement contends that an object's meaning and place is mutable-it shifts as our culture demands it.

Markers In Contemporary Metal is on view at the Samuel Dorsky Museum of Art January 30-March 15, 2002. An opening reception is planned for Tuesday, January 29 from 6-8pm. The exhibition and reception are free and open to all.

Museum hours are Tuesday through Friday, 12-4pm, Saturday and Sunday, 1-4pm. There is no admission charge. For further information please call the SDMA at 845/257-3844 or visit them online at

Affinities Symposium is Saturday, February 2, 9am - 12 noon in Lecture Center 104. It is free and open to all. The artists participating in Markers In Contemporary Metal discuss their educational backgrounds, their work, and the influences and forces that shape and define it. Affinities is a Major Connections event, sponsored by the SUNY New Paltz Foundation and the Office of Academic Affairs.

Images are available online at or by calling 257-3872.

Background on the Metals Collection of the Samuel Dorsky Museum of Art:

In 1985 an anonymous bequest of a collection of historical and modern silver helped to establish a new area of focus for the permanent collection at the museum. From the onset, collecting "metals" was seen as a way to both compliment and augment the university's internationally renowned studio program in metalsmithing. Through the collaborative efforts and generosity of former and current faculty members, alumni, and friends of the museum, the collection is being aggressively developed. Over the past two years the collection has experienced a period of unprecedented growth and now includes fine examples of 18th and 19th century silver, as well as outstanding examples of modern and contemporary jewelry, vessels, and small sculpture.