ENAMELING IN AMERICA, 1920 TO THE PRESENT
by Don Wilkinson
Enameling as an art form is not nearly as well known save to connoisseurs of the craft as painting, sculpture and photography. Curators Bernard Jazzar and Hal Nelson of the Los Angeles based Enamel Arts Foundation, perhaps the preeminent scholars on the medium, have made great efforts to correct that esthetic injustice by putting together an exhibition that is equally bedazzling, bewildering and bewitching.
The field is studded with heady European terminology and phrasing (basse-taille, champlevé, guillocheé, sgraffito…) that belie its origins and give clue to the techniques utilized. By manipulating glass, metal and foils at high temperatures, enamel artists are able to create works that are virtually unmatched in luminosity, translucence and intensity to create two-dimensional imagery and engaging items of the three-dimensional variety, such as vessels, jewelry and sculptural objects that border on the realm of the ritualistic.
Jazzar and Nelson have noted, with a speculation borne of much research and love for the medium, that part of the reason that enameling is not as well known as “sister fields” ceramics and glass may have to do with the more solitary endeavors taken by the enamelists. Of necessity, potters and glassblowers may share kilns and other equipment, and in doing so create a community with support systems and champions of their works, something that has been largely absent in the enameling field.