One. Two. (2013)
Location: Shibumi Gallery
Dates: June 8 through July 28, 2013
The first piece of jewelry I remember being given was a heart shaped pendant. I was visiting my grandparents in Czechoslovakia in 1984. I was four years old. My grandmother took me and my sister to a jewelry store and she asked us to pick out something for ourselves. I chose a gold heart with engraving on the front and back. My grandmother asked if I wanted one or two. I don’t know why she asked this. I believed if there were two, then they would be earrings, so I replied, Two. Two did not make them earrings; they were pendants. And so, my grandmother gave me a double necklace.
I am fascinated by twos. My sister and I often had the same things, so we would be equal- matching nightgowns, clothes, toys, books. I love duplicates and multiples and copies. They have similarities and differences. It relates to classification systems and most prominently for me the Linnaean system for plants and animals, which is extremely satisfying to me, even if it is not entirely accurate. The more specific you get, the more subtle the differences become. Its not just fish and animals and plants—its sunfish and star-nosed moles and ladyslippers. And even beyond that, if you take two individual ladyslippers, side by side, the longer you look at them, the more differences you see. Just like the game Photo Hunt. In creating this new work with drawings (originally I conceived of it as isolated fragments of toile de jouy, but abandoned that to make my own images) I was able to create repetitive patterns and duplicates and then multiples of duplicates. These replications would go either to different individuals or to a single complex individual.
My work can develop through something akin to asexual reproduction, where I make and remake something and eventually a mutation will occur, thereby changing all others after it. Or it can come from something like sexual reproduction, where the ideas or materials or shapes are cross-fertilized. And once I identify the individuals of a species in my work, (which could be defined in many ways— gilded fabric, black and gold, black and white drawings, circles, gold, white, black, blue, heat shrink tube, double, triple, quadruple, chain, etc), this opens up the question of hybrids, like mules (first bred in North America by George Washington) and hinnies, and ligers and tigons. Or mortadella. The hybrids maybe infertile, but may also have some nice qualities of their own.
I recently gave one of the heart shaped pendants to my niece. Then it was stolen from their house. Someone out there has my matching necklace. The present individual recalls the absent individual. Like an earring whose mate has been lost, this idea can be manifested in many instances. In this group of work, the pearls especially work in this way for me. When I bought them, they were still in their shell. Their color matched the part of the shell they came from. Normally, I wouldn’t associate the pearl back to the animal, but because they came to me in situ, they inspire this connotation. One is one, but could be two, or could be ten. You just don’t know.
This exhibition features San Francisco artist Niki Ulehla's jewelry made of hand-painted silk, gilded plastics and pearls. In this work, Ulehla explores copies and multiples while embracing subtle differences that occur during the production process.
Ulehla creates jewelry that explores concepts rooted in natural science. Species classification, reproduction, and hybridization, while not over-obvious, inform her pieces. The jewelry is composed of autonomous visual units of varying sizes; these units are either used to make a piece of pure repetition or are merged to make a variety of hybrid compositions. The effect is a logical yet unusually beautiful body of jewelry.