Sasha Nixon (MA 18) is a curator, historian, and practicing metalsmith. She specializes in the study of contemporary art jewelry, particularly on how individual artists are influenced by ancient and historical jewelry styles and techniques. She was the Center for Craft’s 2018 Windgate curatorial intern at the Museum of Arts and Design and is co-curator of MAD’s exhibition Fake News and True Love: Fourteen Stories by Robert Baines (October 2018–March 2019) and is currently co-curating the exhibition ANTIQUEMANIA, presented at Pratt Manhattan during the inaugural New York City Jewelry Week (November 12–18, 2018). Nixon presented her paper “Pixels Bejeweled: Modern Media, Contemporary Jewelry, and the Replication of Desire” at the Fashion Institute of Technology’s international symposium Digital Meets Handmade: Jewelry in the 21st Century in May 2018. That paper and “In the Studio: Lin Cheung,” written for Metalsmith magazine will be published later this year.

Bard Graduate Center’s MA class of 2018 was the first to have the opportunity to satisfy their qualifying paper requirement with an exhibition proposal. Nixon’s proposal, A View from the Jeweler’s Bench: Ancient Treasures, Contemporary Statements, which also received the 2018 Society of North American Goldsmith’s emerging curators grant, will be presented in Bard Graduate Center Gallery in spring 2019.

What attracted you to Bard Graduate Center’s program?

Coming from an anthropology background, I was interested in BGC’s focus on material culture. I had been looking at art history programs, but though I was fascinated by what humans chose to decorate, how, and why, I was not interested in a traditional art history program. I wanted to learn the history of objects that were both functional and decorative. The hybridity of such objects holds endless interest for me. I was particularly interested in studying the history of adornment. I am a metalsmith and had been learning contemporary techniques for over ten years while learning the history of contemporary art jewelry in a kind of ad hoc way as I went by researching other contemporary jewelry artists. I thought that it was important to come to the BGC’s graduate program to study techniques and technology of ancient jewelry. I felt that I would only gain an understanding of why we adorn our bodies, why jewelry is valued so highly, and how techniques have evolved (or remained consistent) through time by understanding the changing contexts of those techniques and styles with a wide lens.

What was your focus of study and how did you find yourself involved with it?

A lot of how I found myself involved with my focus of study is wrapped up in what drew me to BGC’s graduate program. During my time there I focused on ancient jewelry, but I spent as much of the two years as possible learning about as many aspects of historical jewelry as I could.

What inspired the Jeweler’s Bench exhibition?

A View from the Jeweler’s Bench
was inspired by my desire to merge my own experience in anthropology, archaeology, and contemporary art jewelry with my study of ancient jewelry. This was given an avenue of expression first in an independent study that I took with Dr. Elizabeth Simpson on ancient Etruscan techniques and technologies. During the course of this study we started with the Etruscans, moved on to the Castellani (renowned nineteenth-century Etruscan revivalists), and then touched on contemporary concerns of forgery, replication, and contemporary jewelers that use ancient techniques. The bones of this original project will be seen throughout the exhibition.

I could have done a traditional Qualifying Paper based on that independent study, but I thought that an Exhibition Qualifying Project was an amazing opportunity to learn about curation, exhibition design, and many steps between concept and execution that I had not even considered when I began. These skills will serve me well as I begin my career.

What are your future plans?

In the immediate future I am very excited to see Fake News and True Love: Fourteen Stories by Robert Baines opening at the Museum of Arts and Design in October. For this co-curated exhibition, Barbara Paris Gifford and I collaborated with the artist to create a dynamic and timely exhibition about the fragility of perceived reality in news and in history. I am also involved with the inaugural NYC Jewelry Week (November 12-18, 2018) and am contributing an exhibition titled ANTIQUEMANIA, which will be hosted by Pratt’s SPSC Gallery.

I am very excited to see the Jeweler’s Bench coming together and will be thrilled to see it open in February. I am writing an “In the Studio” feature on jewelry artist Lin Cheung for Metalsmith magazine, which is timed to come out in conjunction with A View from the Jeweler’s Bench (Cheung is one of the artists featured in the exhibition).

I will continue to study the history of jewelry techniques and technologies. This study will continue to inform my knowledge and understanding of contemporary jewelry. Ancient jeweler’s techniques and contemporary art jewelry are my two seemingly disparate, but surprisingly interlinked passion projects. I am currently working on a long term team project wherein we are working towards being able to recreate ancient Etruscan jewelry using the techniques and tools of the time period. I also hope to continue my involvement with contemporary jewelry exhibitions at institutions and events like MAD and NYC Jewelry Week.