“Brush is a Prometheus, stealing lightning from the gods to make objects as miraculous as they are.” – Donald Kuspit, American artist
I’m a member of the Daniel Brush cult, admittedly having come late to the party. I arrived in October of 2016 when a selection of his work was exhibited in Paris at L’École des Arts Joailliers, the School for the Jewelry Arts known by students and fans of the institution simply as L’Ecole. As the Brush exhibit and the evocative new book by Vivienne Becker Daniel Brush: Jewels Sculpture proves again, it is hard to characterize this renaissance man as simply a jeweler.
A self-described recluse, Brush is a goldsmith who also works with steel and aluminum, a painter, sculptor, poet and polymath, as well as an inveterate notebook keeper. And it is the addition of so many pages of those notebooks, along with hundreds of striking photographs of his work, that make this book so stunning, thought provoking and evocative.
In the introduction, Nicolas Bos, CEO and president of Van Cleef & Arpels, writes: “Daniel Brush is at once a great artist and a poet. When you enter his studio, you’re struck by an accumulation of diverse objects, where works worthy of being featured in museum collections mix with everyday objects that he has gathered with a compulsive passion. He has a certain excessiveness, but at the same time, his projects are serene and thoughtful. He enjoys surrounding himself with objects that have meaning, like his creations, whose inspiration draws from the universes of jewelry, painting, and theater…. When Daniel welcomes you in his studio, you experience a moment reminiscent of a ritual tea ceremony, which he methodically orchestrates with his wife, Olivia. Every object is uncovered one by one, like a treasure. With each revealed treasure, you feel like you’re hitting a breakthrough, as if you were knighted. I perceive within him the shiver of an artisan jeweler holding a very beautiful stone or a piece of high jewelry in his hands. It’s an emotion.”
In a creative compilation of exquisite photos, drawings, doodles, poems and narrative, this volume manages to give the reader the sense that we too are entering Brush’s studio, meeting the artist and discovering his work with all the same emotion Bos felt.
In a thorough examination of every aspect of Brush’s oeuvre, the author, Vivienne Becker delves into Brush’s influences, challenges, wit and whimsy. Of special note are the chapters on the charming Bakelite and stone studded ‘animal crackers’, the inspired by antiquity gold-granulation pieces, the Bitch bracelets with all their marvelous attitude, the ropes of mystical hand carved beaded necklaces and the spiritual tondos.
Vivienne Becker magnificently describes Brush’s approach to his work: “Every morning of every day of his working life, for some forty-five years, the artist Daniel Brush has faced agonizing cosmic challenges. Every morning, he grapples with unknowable concepts, such as light or breath, fights through excruciating confusions, and wrestles with unanswerable questions about life, art, truth, beauty, decision-making, and the universe. Not only that, but he welcomes this divine discontent, he induces these disturbing dilemmas, beckoning them into his rarefied, isolated world; a world that seems—like his jewels—to exist beyond time, beyond imagination, beyond boundaries.”
Becker’s insight and the artist’s willingness to discuss his interests, philosophies, efforts, frustrations and challenges make this more than a coffee table book about beautiful objects d’art. It’s a must have for anyone interested in the soul of an artist.
Daniel Brush: Jewels Sculpture describes how Brush deliberates on the role and soul of every jewel. It illustrates each creation from its physical properties to its metaphysical powers. As we learn how profoundly and seriously Brush considers every aspect of what he creates, the pieces grow more beautiful and glow more magically. Which is just what Brush hopes will happen. As Becker tells us, “he has thought most profoundly about its talismanic power: the jewel as sacred object, a conduit to the divine.”
Becker writes of Brush’s desire to ‘be in the club of great makers. To have a tiny mention in jewel history.’ If this book does nothing else, it proves Daniel Brush had accomplished his goal.