Arts Writing Artist Features

Anya Kivarkis

Anya Kivarkis. 2014 Individual Artist Fellow, Oregon Arts Commission.

Photo: Sabina Poole

Originally published January, 2014

It looks like a piece of fine jewelry. But something is off. There is a lacuna, a flat spot, or an unexpected asymmetry. If the archival turn is all the rage in contemporary art, there is probably not a smarter application of the practice of mining the archive for sociopolitical content than that of the work of conceptual jeweler Anya Kivarkis.

In the creation of works of jewelry, Kivarkis slyly critiques materialism, celebrity, and consumerism. She creates replicas of jewelry she finds in images from the Baroque, Victorian and contemporary eras, all, she notes, high points in the history of Imperialism. And her replicas are as-found: if a detail is hidden or unclear, she will interrupt the form with a blank spot or flat spot. If the celebrity on the red carpet is photographed at a ¾ angle, Kivarkis will create the replica from exactly the same angle. What you see is what you get. Except it isn’t. Her work raises worthwhile questions about the unreliability of pure optic experience or representations of it. She also plays with material, layering auto paint, for example, over silver, asking questions about where value lies.

Like the pieces themselves, which exist between the thing and the image of the thing, Kivarkis’ practice thrives in the interzone between conceptual art and the ornamental jewelry (her works are in fact, all wearable). She has purposely circumscribed her practice in the field of jewelry and metalsmithing to match the practice with its subject: the examination of jewelry and luxury goods, generally. Like artists and poets before her who found liberation in constraint or been forced into new territory by rule-based work, Kivarkis has said, “What interests me about working within these limitations are the possibilities for reconsidering ideas within the field in an expanded way.”

Kivarkis received the Sienna Gallery National Emerging Artist Award in 2006, because of which she was offered representation by Sienna Gallery, one of a small group of galleries that show speculative work in the field of craft. She has been showing internationally ever since. Among other accolades, Kivarkis was nominated for a Louis Comfort Tiffany Foundation Biennial Award in Art, New York, NY.

Kivarkis is Associate Professor of Jewelry and Metalsmithing and is Jewelry and Metalsmithing Coordinator at the University of Oregon in Eugene. She received a BFA in Jewelry and Metalsmithing from the University of Illinois in Champaign-Urbana and an MFA from the State University of New York at New Paltz in 2004.

Recent exhibitions include Neo-Palatial: Objects of Virtue and Vice curated by Garth Clark; L’education Sentimentale at the Solidor Art Space in Cagnes Sur Mer, France; Extreme Beauty at the Glassel School of Art in Houston; Call + Response at Museum of Contemporary Craft in Portland; The Sting at the Manchester Art Gallery, England; and The Surrealist Impulse at the Tacoma Art Museum. She was a recipient of the 2008 Oregon Arts Commission Individual Artists Fellowship, and a 2007 Rotasa Foundation grant to support the publication of The Thinking Body in conjunction with an exhibition she co-curated with Kate Wagle.

Kivarkis’s work is included in collections such as the Tacoma Art Museum, WA; the Samuel Dorsky Museum of Art, SUNY, New Paltz, NY; The Rotasa Foundation, CA; the Museum of Contemporary Craft, OR; and the Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art, OR. She is represented by Sienna Gallery in Lenox, MA and Galerie Rob Koudijs in the Netherlands. Kivarkis has been on sabbatical in preparation for her solo exhibition at Galerie Rob Koudijs.

Courtesy of The Oregon Arts Commission.

Artist Credit: Anya Kivarkis

Exhibition: Oregon Arts Commission Fellows

Project Website

Oregon Arts Commission