As a maker of objects, I have navigated the waters of sentiment and studied the point when an object becomes a beloved object. This often involves a transaction: a gift, a purchase, the exchange of wedding vows. It involves time. The years spent wearing (or living with) the piece – getting to know it a little more each day. In the case of a wedding ring, it requires understanding its relationship to your body, the weather, the environment, the work one does, one’s age. The Mexican essayist, poet, and diplomat Octavio Paz, in one of my favorite essays, said, “The handmade object does not charm us simply because of its usefulness. It lives in complicity with our senses, and that is why it is so hard to get rid of – it is like throwing a friend out of the house”. I am humbled that some of the objects I have made live daily with friends and strangers alike. Over the last five years of making jewelry, I’ve returned to this idea of making the quiet things that are worn daily, that are impossible to part with. What would make your list?
Late this summer, I was invited to be a guest artist in a Gallery as Laboratory class at Mills College/Slidespace 123 Gallery in Oakland. The show of my work that we created over the last two months will be up until November 30th and open on the next few weekends, 11-3 pm. I hope you will go see it if you can. Find the curatorial text the students prepared below:
Maya Kini | Raising Gold
Maya Kini is an artist, poet, and alchemist. She grew up in the Boston area, the daughter of an Italian American mother and South Indian father. Her connection to jewelry and objects began at a young age, stemming in particular from her relationship with her Indian grandmother and the contents of her purse: a combination of mundane items and ornate jewelry. This unexpected mixture sparked an ongoing curiosity in Kini and prompted her to explore the meaning of objects through her work.
Within the works present, Kini makes physical the nine elements of her material alphabet. With roots in the navaratna, a jewelry object consisting of nine gemstones, Kini’s personal language consists of gold, rust, platinum, graphite, diamond, silk, bone, pearl, and lapis lazuli. Taking shape here in unraveling silk cocoons, graphite dust applied to a disc with such care that it becomes luminous, jagged shards of bone, or a pile of diamond dust, Kini studies the potential of these materials, and their connections—sometimes unexpected—to the body and to one another. Accompanying each work in this exhibition is a poem or short text inspired by each element, and an abcedarian poem that serves as her artist statement and a cumulative reflection on her work.
Kini’s work—both in language and in three dimensions—explores the concept of, metamorphosis—little resistance as it is, moved from one form to another—as her practice explores the changing value of objects as they are transformed and imbued with meaning through exchange, often outlasting their makers. Concerned with her impact as an artist adding more to the ever-expanding world of things, she often focuses attention on what an object can become after being subjected to a series of physical transformations like burning, melting, and hammering. Kini uses recycled materials in her work, instilling them with new life and new meaning, but with regard for their past histories. In her work, she is drawn to the way things become altered with wear and the mutual influence of the wearer and piece. Kini aims to prompt reflection on the significance of material objects, and the meanings we imbue them with.
As a maker of objects, I have navigated the waters of sentiment and studied the point when an object becomes a beloved object. This often involves a transaction: a gift, a purchase, the exchange of wedding vows. It involves time. The years spent wearing (or living with) the piece – getting to know it a little more each day. ~ Maya Kini
A simple life. A series of trails. A coastline. A cedar cabin. Some wooden hooks for clothes. A shelf. A cot with woolen blankets. Windows. The sounds of the sea at night. The hum of lobster boats in the earliest morning hours. A brine that permeates everything, everything wet, threatening to grow moss as thick as what lines the forest floor, if we just give it enough time.
Each morning, I walk on the blue trail over moss cushions and five felled logs – the fourth one rocks a bit, lichen mandalas cover stone slabs. Each morning, I find new colonies of mushrooms – some are glossy red toadstools, one, a two-tiered pecan pie, another, ghostly white trumpets. One is shaped like a donut, another spins a fine yarn of spores, a mushroom erupting with silky threads while last week mushrooms stand there in the shadows. They look charred, as if the wild fire of decomposition has roared through the Maine woods and taken their color and with it their life.
The blue trail hugs the coastline and peeks at boulders and the brightly colored buoys that mark the evenly spaces lobster traps. A granite slide marks the best entrance to the swimming cove and just after high tide is the best time to swim. The cove water is clean and clear of seaweed - warmer later in the day. The moon snails have built their rubbery collars camouflaged in the sand, modernist, ephemeral works.
When the moon rises, it is tinged pink with western smoke. One moon for all of us.