There are few elements I find as moving in art as strong contrast. Seeing light and dark or softness and rigidity in close proximity always causes a powerful reaction, emphasizing just how different and extreme moments in life can be. Last week, when I stepped into Catherine Grisez’s art studio I was presented with one of the most refreshingly twisted artistic contrasts I had seen in a long while.
Catherine Grisez is an Ohio girl who migrated towards both coasts after she graduated high school. She attended the Rhode Island School of Design for her BFA, majoring in jewelry and light metals. After her time on the east coast she drove west with a loose plan to start working in the Pacific Northwest and move her way down the coast to California. On her first weekend in Seattle she found a live/work loft in Pioneer Square and set up shop right away. It has been over 15 years since that first weekend visit and she is currently living and working out of a space in South Park. Grisez acknowledges that her southern migration is moving at a snail’s pace, but she is as happy as can be in Seattle.
While trained in jewelry, Grisez has crafted a large body of sculptural work. For 15 years she has been presenting in exhibitions from New York to Seattle. Her sculptural work is inspired by her past experiences, her present mindset, societal issues, and images from nature. Her last solo exhibition, Lick, was a perfect collaboration of sculpture, photography, and live models. It was so well done, in fact, that it took it all out of Grisez and she chose to take a break from sculpture and focus on her jewelry work.
It is when you see Grisez’s sculptures and jewelry side by side that that coveted contrast is most noticeable. Clearly possessing a strong sculptural presence, her jewelry comes across as so light and delicate with spilling gemstones conjuring images of rainbow waterfalls. Put one of her necklaces next to one of the music box sculptural pieces she has in her studio and it seems just that much lighter. Her music box work (which I fell crazy in love with) is dark, heavy, and unsettling in the best way. Belly up metal bugs imbedded in more metal and trapped behind a metal screen lie in front you while seven different songs, each controlled by their own enamel topped knob, play simultaneously. It is jarring delicious all at the same time.
Grisez is excited for the future of her work. Having taken a few years to focus on light-hearted jewelry, she is ready to delve back into sculpture and I, for one, am excited to see what she is going to come up with this time.
You can find Catherine Grisez’s jewelry here. Her resume and portfolio of all her work can be found here. You can also read more about her background and where she came from here at Martha Stewart American Made.