Since the 1980s, New York based artist Daniel Brush has created paintings, sculpture, and jewelry. His paintings and drawings are inspired by the Japanese Noh theater, while his steel sculptures incorporate granulation and inlaid gold. His experimentation with jewelry design evolved from pieces inspired by ancient gold work to animals made out of Bakelite and other space-age materials to exploration with steel and aluminum. He has had several exhibitions, including a retrospective at the Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, D.C.; Daniel Brush: Blue Steel Gold Light at the Museum of Arts and Design, New York; and Daniel Brush: Cuffs and Necks at Van Cleef and Arpels’s L’École des Arts Joailliers, Paris and New York. Many books have been devoted to his work, and most recently, Rizzoli published a monograph on his jewelry.
Whether he is creating a sculpture, a painting, or one of his jewels, Daniel Brush is one of the most unconventional and extraordinary artists working today. Brush’s creations encompass a wide variety of media, and each of his pieces is an entity unto itself—a unique work of art. This bangle is part of a group of pieces inspired by his childhood memories of visiting New York City with his parents. Brush said, “My mother and father owned a children’s clothing store for over forty years. In the 1950s, I traveled with them to the Seventh Avenue garment district, where they placed wholesale orders for dresses, underwear, shoes, stuffed animal toys, and little girl dresser sets. The sets had a mirror, comb, and brush, and often a bangle with rhinestones.”
This bangle, inspired by those childhood memories, began as a solid block of Bakelite hand filed, shaped, and polished to its present form through an exacting and rigorous reductive process. The fine steel beads that define the quote and decoration are a minute .024 mm wide; they are tapped into small holes and secured with resin, a process that demands both mental and physical dexterity. The diamonds, set into collets, are applied similarly. Beyond the artistry involved marking this piece as superior, there is also the extraordinary choice of material. Bakelite, a plastic medium, has been used for a variety of items from jewelry to furniture and car accessories to insulation on space ships.
Tantamount to the mastery of the jewel is the message on the bangle, the charming colloquialism, “What’s the word, hummingbird?” The witty phrase and Brush’s use of nontraditional materials in his jewelry making encourages a change in how fine jewelry is perceived—and encourages viewing the piece through the eyes of an artist.