A hallmark of a great artist is one who searches out beauty or meaning in circumstances that may perplex others. The creative mind looks past the obvious, and with respect for life, finds meaning through it all. As a visual storyteller, an artist’s work guides observers with redolent images that convey a universal truth about the human experience.
Picasso accomplished that with “Guernica” (c. 1937), his massive mural masterpiece depicting the powerful realities of war. It still speaks to art lovers today with his jarring imagery of brutality and suffering, and the human toll when bombs fell on the Basque region of Spain.
How odd that something can be both beautiful and full of loss at the same time. But that’s the role of an artist working in their chosen medium to convey a personal message. We feel because the artist did also.
Milestones with Jewelry
Unique message jewelry can also deliver powerful messages that resonate with collectors. Jewelry is a life-affirming possession that is often given to mark personal milestones of great joy. Bridal jewelry comes to mind as the pinnacle of joyful celebratory jewels. Jewelry given when a woman gives birth, or to mark birthdays and anniversaries are but a few of the times when we celebrate with gifts of precious metals and gemstones. Of course, its intrinsic symbolism is one of beauty, value and permanence.
In Victorian days, jewelry could play a key role in showing its wearer to be in mourning. Highly sentimental pieces were made specifically to memorialize the death of a loved one. In modern times, the trend for ‘creating diamonds from ashes’ has gained momentum with those who wish to keep a loved one close by via the carbon remains of a loved one – or even a pet.
Traditionally, fine jewelry carries with it the perception that it’s meant to be passed down and cherished by later generations.
A Modern Era – with Universal Messages
So, thinking about the vast reach of jewelry and its importance in people’s lives, it only stands to reason that in some way, jewelry can speak to us and also for us.
Imaginative Middle Eastern artists Nafiseh Khoshandam & Bahareh Ghaderi began collaborating on pieces in 2010. As female artists, they are amongst the dominant gender of jewelry designers today in modern Iran. But they labor under tremendous cultural obstacles that must be overcome to thrive as a creative voice in that part of the world.
The artistic duo has partnered together on sculptures and jewelry collections along with other art forms for years. By experimenting with new techniques and a variety of materials, they’ve found creative expression with unexpected outcomes.
Nafiseh and Bahareh draw from their own personal, social, and cultural concerns. So, the resulting output represents a keenly personal perspective about events surrounding them. “It’s not all about beautifying the surroundings and environment where we live by bringing art to it,” Nafiseh explains. “Sometimes, it’s about connecting people and opening up a dialogue with communities we don’t know,” she affirms. Their recent project is a jewelry collection called Hoping Against Hope, that addresses a declining culture in The Middle East.
In their own words, they provide insight into their jewelry collection’s deeper message.
“This collection was conceived and designed according to the current conditions of our country (Iran) and its region. The conditions are having a devastating effect on our identity and on peoples’ day-to-day lives. Our Hoping Against Hope jewelry collection reflects the situation we are in. Years of hoping to get rid of restrictions imposed inside and outside the country inspired the name of our collection.
“We have been waiting for years for these sanctions to lift. Now, if we want to think deeper, we see a declining culture in acid attacks on women in Isfahan [a major city in Iran] due to the restrictive way of thinking. We see the decline of a culture in increased suicides of educated people during the recession, and during these years of sanctions.”
In a surprising twist on manufacture and technique, the artists have gone rogue with both their materials and its iconoclastic applications. In brief, they deliberately damage portions of their jewelry. These intentional diversions become part of the message surrounding the collection’s theme. It offers fascinating insight into the reason behind the ladies’ election to construct jewelry that is at once beautiful, evocative, and thought-provoking.
The Method is the Message
Using traditional Middle Eastern designs and then partially destroying different areas in each piece – the message is clear. What was classically cherished is being eroded by the current political climate.
“Today, most people tend to use gold with modern designs. We collected motifs for Hope Against Hope jewelry from forgotten old goldsmith workshops. We inflicted damage on these jewelry pieces randomly with different tools and applied heat after waxing on the wax pieces. So, each piece is completely unique in its design and its intentional damage. They are derived from the traditional jewelry of the country and the region, and our designs were small portions of very large necklaces.”
By representing a declining culture in the form of wearable art, the artists explain that the items become “an integral part of us as it is indeed [our] culture.”
“We chose jewelry because of its magnificent beauty. It attracts the attention of a wider audience, so our voice can be heard more. We tend to believe that despite the fact that part of the culture is declining, it still holds its beauty.
“It is important to us that the lost beauty of our pieces [through intentional damage] be inspiring for the audiences. They can even have their own story for the destroyed parts of pieces.”
So, the larger message, beyond the pressing concerns that the artist-duo has had to contend with, is that every life is built on some beauty that may be flawed by damage. Hope Against Hope takes on a wider message that resonates with thoughtful jewelry collectors everywhere. And that was exactly what Nafiseh and Bahareh were going for.
While the constraints they’ve faced in their homeland have made things untenable for the artists, they actually keep working with a vision fueled by hope itself.
“Five years on, the conditions of the people in the region may be much better, so we may increase our aesthetic vision. If conditions actually become more difficult, then we’ll make changes to accommodate that reality. In our view an unpredictable path awaits us and our collection. So, we certainly have not projected a 5-year vision for the future of our brand.”
Nafiseh and Bahareh definitely see the larger picture, and while their jewelry is full of personal references, it can also resonate with women the world over.
“We tend to believe that every woman with any way of thinking can own pieces from our collection. Some women can love our jewelry from an aesthetic point of view because of its beautiful and delicate motifs. Others may become immersed in its modern design, while still other women sense a connection to our message of the damaged parts of the pieces. Of course, some women will reflect on the original story behind this collection.”
When we started our conversation, Nafiseh and Bahareh were living in their home country of Iran. They have recently relocated to Turkey. You can enjoy browsing through more of their distinctive collections by visiting their website www.nafisehbahareh.com where you can connect with them personally.