Museum  June 29, 2018  Chandra Noyes

“Heavy Metal-Women to Watch” Shows the Diversity of Metal Art and of Those Who Make It

Courtesy NMWA, Photo by Jenny Gorman

Alice Hope, Untitled, 2016; Used Budweiser tabs, 6 ft. diameter; Private collection.

Now showing at the National Museum of Women in the Arts (NMWA) in Washington, D.C. is the latest installment of the museum’s ongoing Women to Watch Series. Heavy Metal includes over 50 works from 20 contemporary artists, covering the huge breadth of techniques, materials, and artworks that encompass contemporary metal work. Seeking to defy the conventional association with metal work as a male-dominated art form, the exhibition shows all that woman are accomplishing in this diverse range of materials.

Courtesy of the artist; Photo by John Janca

Katherine Vetne, Selling the Dream, 2017; three lead crystal Avon pitchers, melted and mirrored with silver nitrate, 45 x 11 x 10 3/4 in.

Artists in the exhibition come from around the world, and create works that range from large-scale sculpture to delicate jewelry. Alice Hope’s Untitled installation (above) takes small items of domestic refuse (used Budweiser beer tabs) and turns them into a large wall-piece, reminiscent of a portal. Paula Castillo also incorporates refuse into her works, though hers is industrial waste. Using computer modeling software, she creates intricate objects that she then painstakingly welds together, piece by piece. Tethered (below) is delicate yet dense, a web of washers and wire that is both organic and industrial. 

More traditional works in heavy Heavy Metal include Swedish silversmith Petronella Eriksson’s Silver sake jug with cups. This set of beautiful flowing forms are an elegant reminder of the more refined uses of metals as a luxury material. Similarly, Cheryl Eve Acosta’s light, organic copper jewelry is so finely crafted that it seems to lift off of the body. San Francisco-based Katherine Vetne’s sculptural works play with these dueling notions of metal: femininity versus masculinity, industrial versus domestic. Selling the Dream consists of three lead crystal Avon pitchers, which have been reduced to a melted heap and then mirrored. Vetne has taken a dainty object of domesticity and rendered it useless, while still maintaining its beauty and elegance.

Paula Castillo, Tethered, 2014
Courtesy of the artist, © 2017 Paula Castillo

Paula Castillo, Tethered, 2014; Lock washers and hand-cut and twisted wire, 15 x 18 x 11 in.

Susie Ganch, Untitled, 2010
Courtesy of the artist and Sienna Patti Contemporary, Photo by Taylor Dabney

Susie Ganch, Untitled, 2010; Steel, enameled copper, and panel, 36 x 24 x 12 in.

Petronella Eriksson, Silver sake jug with cups, 2017
Courtesy of the artist, Photographer: Petronella Eriksson

Petronella Eriksson, Silver sake jug with cups, 2017; Silver, 6 x 6 1/4 x 11 3/8 in.

Rana Begum, No.546 Chevrons, 2014
Courtesy of the artist and Kate MacGarry, London, Photo by Philip White

Rana Begum, No.546 Chevrons, 2014; Paint on powder-coated aluminum, 77 1/2 x 208 1/4 x 2 in. overall

Cheryl Eve Acosta, Fossilium, 2015
Courtesy of the artist, © Cheryl Eve Acosta, Photo by Gene Starr

Cheryl Eve Acosta, Fossilium, 2015; Collar with copper and organza, 4 x 11 x 13 in.

Heavy Metal—Women to Watch 2018 in on view through September 16, 2018, at the NMWA.

About the Author

Chandra Noyes

Chandra is managing editor for Art & Object.

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