The jewelry of Arline Fisch

Tucked into a gallery at the far back corner of the Art Gallery in the Oakland Museum of California is ‘Elegant Fantasy: The Jewelry of Arline Fisch,’ an exhibit of most unusual jewelry created by San Diego artist Arline Fisch.

At the entrance of the gallery is a one-piece arm ornament titled ‘Bracelet and Glove.’ Beautifully lit to show off the brilliant sterling silver glove and cranberry colored, ruffled, sleeve-like bracelet, this piece is a terrific introduction to the unique work of this artist.

Not only does it show off the metal-as-material approach Fisch uses for many of her creations but it also exhibits her unconventional approach to jewelry, according to a report by the Bay City News Service.

‘The major function of a piece of jewelry is to make the person who wears it look and feel beautiful, elegant and distinctive,’ Fisch says. Her necklaces, pins, breastplates and stoles are dramatic and would take someone with flair to wear them. Without exception, they are beautiful and showy.

Fisch uses both precious metals and stones and unexpected materials like feathers, leather, springs, aluminum, Formica, agate, bone, and antique ivory, combining these various materials into lovely works of art.

Using slices of agate encased in silver as landscape backgrounds, she creates tiny elephants of bone or antiqued ivory, which march in line across the top or bottom of the broaches. There are bracelets, brilliantly colored in purple, red and blue, cut out of Formica in the form of different types of fish with holes in the middle to slide one’s hand through. One shape looks like a polliwog, another a fat, ferocious fish with tiny sharp teeth, and yet another a fish shaped like a child would draw.

The exhibition, which drawn from the San Diego Historical Society, the artist’s private collection, and the Oakland Museum, is a retrospective of the 40-year output by Fisch. It is designed in themes rather than chronologically so it is hard to see where Fisch started and where she is going with her work. There are groupings of flower-decorated necklaces, body ornaments, hats, neck ornaments, decorative objects like a teapot and cup and saucer knit of sterling silver, and pins and necklaces with wings as a theme.

What Fisch is most noted for, however, is her use of metal-like textiles. She has developed a method of weaving, knitting, crocheting, and braiding metal, using it like cloth. ‘Multicolored Braid with Silver Flowers,’ one of the most striking pieces on exhibit, aptly demonstrated this technique. Created out of coated copper wire and sterling silver, the floor length stole is made of individual tubes knitted on a circular knitting machine. The tubes are then plaited together to lie flat around the neck and down the front of a woman to her waist. From there, the individual tubes cascade down the front, ending in pleated silver floral pins which accentuate and counterweight the neckline. The stole is colored in deep red, shading to maroon, purple and blue. It is beautiful and dramatic and would look marvelous over a black velvet column of an evening dress. Fisch has also created jewelry for men. There is a silver metal cummerbund for an adventurous man to wear with his tuxedo.

The exhibit ‘Elegant Fantasy: The Jewelry of Arline Fisch’ continues at the Oakland Museum of California through April 22.