Last week I came across an American modernist jewelry designer that I had not previously known, Art Smith (1917 - 1982). I had seen his name in passing, but had thought it was a business or website name. Several of his pieces are familiar to me from photographs of that era, but I knew nothing about him. And surprisingly, most of the jewelry lovers I know also knew nothing about him. But really, everyone should know his work. It is superb. He had had a store in the village in New York until a little before his death in the early 80’s, which I am sad to say I never visited although I was living there at the time.
My favorite piece has to be the “Lava” cuff shown below. He also does really interesting experiments with wire creating organic oversized necklaces made of outlines, and uses thick wires in a variety of ways that are unusual, all of which is inspiring me to do some of my own experimenting with wire. His work exemplifies jewelry as art. His range is incredible and is too large to be represented here, so to see more images, you can check out my Art Smith Pinterest Board at: https://www.pinterest.com/xenacarterdesigns/art-smith-jewelry/
I don't know about Art Smith other than he was a gay African-Caribbean man, raised in Brooklyn, schooled at the Cooper Union, and that he was a fan of jazz, and a supporter of gay rights. I haven’t had the time to find out much more, so I am not clear on how well know he was during his career. His work was featured in Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar, and he knew many of the musicians of the time, such as Lena Horne, and designed for avant garde dancers of the time. There is a book out, “Art as Adornment: the Life and Work of Arthur Smith” by Charles L. Russell that has substantial biographical information. For those interested: https://www.amazon.com/Art-Adornment-Arthur-George-Smith/dp/1478744782/
A few other related sites:
In 2008, the Brooklyn Museum had an exhibit of his work: https://www.brooklynmuseum.org/exhibitions/art_smith
Website managed by the Estate of Art Smith: http://artsmithjewelry.com/