Linda MacNeil

January 21 - October 1, 2017

Museum of Glass presets its first exhibition of jewelry, Linda MacNeil: Jewels of Glass, open from January 21 to October 1, 2017. Linda MacNeil has been a pioneer in both the Studio Jewelry and Studio Glass movements since the 1970s. Emerging during that decade with formal training in metalsmithing, MacNeil began fashioning a body of work that combines glass and nonprecious metals—more recently augmenting them with precious materials—to make exquisite articles of adornment not rooted in narrative.
MacNeil’s sophisticated statements over her more than 40-year career have ranged from playful, often surrealistic pronouncements to formal compositions that sometimes reference the fine jewelry from the great international houses of the 20th century. What unites all MacNeil’s work is her passion for making and a concern for materiality that results in her pushing to the limits the inherent characteristics of the glass—specifically, its transparency, opacity, and reflective and refractive qualities. When juxtaposed with elegant, restrained, symmetrically arranged, and often visually understated metalwork, the glass rivals precious gems and evokes jewelry and metalsmithing from ancient times through the Art Deco period to 20th- and 21st-century innovations.

MacNeil was born in Framingham, Massachusetts. Fascinated by jewelry-making since a teenager, she attended the Philadelphia College of Art, the Massachusetts College of Art, and the Rhode Island School of Design in Providence, where she received her BFA in 1976. Initially fabricating small, nonfunctional tabletop sculptures as well as jewelry, by the late 1980s she began to focus entirely on jewelry.  

To date, MacNeil has created more than 700 necklaces, brooches, and earrings. This retrospective exhibition and accompanying monograph, organized by guest curator Davira S. Taragin, is the first to explore in depth the development of MacNeil’s work and her contribution to late 20th- and 21stcentury American jewelry. The monograph, published by Arnoldsche Art Publishers, Stuttgart, includes a major essay by Davira S. Taragin that covers MacNeil’s biography, with discussions of the development of her aesthetic and her influences. Noted jewelry historian, Ursula Ilse-Neuman, contextualizes MacNeil’s contribution within the international art jewelry movement generally, and in particular, the use of glass in jewelry over the centuries. The fully illustrated publication also contains an exhibition history, select bibliography, and a list of museum collections where MacNeil’s work can be found.  

“The exhibition Linda MacNeil: Jewels of Glass and its accompanying monograph fully recognize for the very first time Linda MacNeil's significant contribution to contemporary glass and jewelry,” shares Taragin. “The scholarly examination of the development of this innovative jeweler's stunning aesthetic and her position within the history of jewelry and adornment enhances the fields of both glass and jewelry.” 

A book signing and panel discussion will be held at the Museum on February 12 at 2 pm. Panelists include artist Linda MacNeil, guest curator Davira S. Taragin, and scholar Ursula Ilse-Neuman. MOG Artistic Director Susan Warner will moderate the discussion.

Linda MacNeil: Jewels of Glass is sponsored by Marian and Russell Burke, Larry and Klara Silverstein and the Silverstein Family Trust, Guendolen Carkeek Plestcheef Fund for the Decorative and Design Arts, John and Deb Gross, Diane and Jerome Phillips, Art Alliance for Contemporary Glass, Farah and John Palmer, and Sharon Karmazin.

Image Credit: Linda MacNeil (American, born 1954. Necklace No. 4 from "Lucent Lines" series, 1984. Plate Glass and 14K yellow gold; 20 1/2x7/8x1/4 inches (52.1x2.2x0.6 cm). Collection of Joan and Jay Ochroch. Photo by Susie Cushner. 

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