myung urso: trans-form
10 year retrospective and new work
Thread, ink, wood, paper. Humble raw materials are venerated for their textural, structural, and visual qualities. Stitched, sculpted, stretched to join seemingly incongruous elements into inseparable jewelry forms. Myung Urso has an uncanny ability not only to interpret everyday materials in entirely fresh ways, but to elevate them in her work to stature typically reserved for precious stones and metals. Even when Urso uses sterling silver, freshwater pearls, or other more traditional jewelry matter, she gives cotton, wood, and, most recently, paper pulp, centerstage. And, in their leading roles, under Urso's direction, these objects are radiant and mesmerizing. At the heart of Urso's work are the exploration and transformation of commonplace materials into art objects that are ambiguous, enigmatic, and beguiling.
Myung Urso is a sculptor working in jewelry, a textile artist by training, and a keen observer of the natural world's permutations. Seasons of the year, growth cycles, the elements of water, fire, and earth, are recurrent themes in her bodies of work. Urso revels in soft, expressive organic shapes yet her approach is quite exacting and laconic. Consequently, her necklaces, brooches, and earrings can exhibit both, a minimalist architectural austerity, and an exuberance of form and surface.
Myung Urso has used jewelry as a medium of artistic expression for the past ten years. A decade is also how long she has lived in the United States. Her work reflects the abundant cultural and artistic influences of her former life in South Korea, as well as the challenges and rewards of navigating the American cultural landscape.
For years, Hanji paper was a material Urso utilized frequently in her work. More recently, she has turned to another paper product - recycled paper egg cartons and recycled paper fruit/vegetable baskets. First spotted by Urso in farmer's market stalls in her current hometown of Rochester, NY, these humble objects, weathered by sunlight, use, and reuse, have come to symbolize, for her, the cycle of consumption and the grower-consumer relationship, Urso says. The recycled paper pulp containers carry the product of the farmers' labor as well as nourishment for those who consume the fruit. In Urso's hands, pieces of these containers are transformed again, their surfaces treated with marble dust or other substances, set in sterling silver, and recreated as jewelry pieces, to be worn and translated yet again.
Whether using calligraphy in novel ways, as Urso did in her early collections, or stitching through found wood debris, as she did later, or treating common paper pulp as precious commodity, Urso's approach makes her metamorphic jewelry exhilarating.
Elena Rosenberg, Independent Curator