Enamelist Jamie Bennett offers insight into his work and career

Posted by Olivia Powers

On Tuesday, Nov. 1, enamellist and jeweler Jamie Bennett presented the annual Rosanne Brody Raab Lecture. Bennett led the audience through the stages in his career, described his process of innovation and discussed his wide variety of influences.

Rosanne Raab, sponsor of the annual lecture and a member of the class of 1955, introduced Bennett in the Tang Teaching Museum's Payne Room.

In his work, Bennett departs from the traditional concepts of jewelry, rejecting the symmetrical framing of jewels. He experiments with the juxtaposition between the public and private aspects of jewelry, often incorporating artwork into the backs of his pieces.

"We tend to memorize [the traditional] system and I think that allowing other methodologies into that system can be very beneficial," Bennett said.

Bennett is very conscious of the responsibility that comes with creating wearable artwork. His recognition of jewelry as "ornamentation applied to enhance" a person's natural demonstrated the respect that he holds for his pieces.

"I really wanted to be reverent to the idea of objects as witnesses," Bennett said.

The artist draws from a variety of influences in his work. Bennett garners inspiration from everything from cell structures, to architecture, to the 1981 film "My Dinner with Andre." Foremost among these influences is his interest in the relationships that other cultures foster with imagery, most notably in Islamic art. As a student, Bennett took a four-and-a-half month leave from school and traveled to Turkey. He has taken two residencies abroad in the past decade: at Istanbul Technical University in 2005 and at Hsinchu University in Taiwan in 2010. His artwork displays his broad perspectives.

"I think that [Bennett] is a very vigorous artist; you can really tell that he has done his research and that he does his art for himself," Reed Fagan '12 said.

Bennett offered wisdom to the aspiring artists in attendance. He presented pictures of his studio and his tools and stressed the importance of discipline in the creative process. His lecture was targeted at art students and the audience was appreciative.

"As an upcoming artist applying to graduate school, [Bennett's lecture] made me think about my future," Fagan said.

Bennett, a professor of art in the metals program at the State University of New York at New Paltz, has received fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the New York Foundation for the Arts, and is the Eileen Webb Fellow of the American Crafts Council.

Bennett has exhibited his work both in the U.S. and abroad, with permanent collections featured in over 20 museums around the world. These include the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Smithsonian Institution, the Kunst Museum in Osio, the Victoria and Albert Museum in London and the Gallery of Western Australia in Perth.

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