Latest comment from Anna Miles:
Brooch No. 3
This brooch I felt I knew well but didn’t have enough time to really appreciate. I own an amber version of this brooch that Marie gave me a long time ago. The amber brooch which like the newer red one is made of car headlight plastic came from a series of work called Bright lights and Concrete which is interesting for Marie’s inclusion of a palette of urban materials. By choosing these materials she was in some ways opposing herself to the conventions of the ‘Bone Stone Shell’ tradition of local jewellery. I guess an earlier challenge to this convention of gathering non-precious organic materials came from one of those ‘Bone Stone Shell’ insiders, Warwick Freeman, who had already begun to disassemble the tradition in his 1980s neckpiece that includes discs of pink and lime Perspex.
My understanding is that Marie made a series of geometric formed brooches employing car headlight set in silver for an exhibition of jewellery for and about men at Fingers. (I thought this was MAN, 2003, which also included Alan Preston’s snake-like, sperm-like mother of pearl brooches, but think I am mistaken). There was a desire on Marie’s part at least to make jewels that would be worn by men, however after the event she felt that the only men who bought or wore these jewels were men who were highly initiated to the wearing of contemporary New Zealand jewellery, so in some senses regarded the result as a failure.
Flash forward 8 years and Marie is undertaking Masters study at Unitec and in the course of her contemplations of the memorial role of jewellery and theories of the counter monument, she becomes involved in making her own counter monument in Oakley Creek, a memorial to the Waterview homes destroyed to make way for a motorway extension. Ironically Marie uses a fragment of car, the vehicle that has led to the motorway, to memorialise each home destroyed by its path. The red brooch I was now wearing was made at the same time as Marie implanted the same size cores of car headlight plastic in trees in Oakley Creek. I found this interesting and started wearing my amber brooch again at this time, as it seemed to have now acquired a whole new meaning. Like the red brooch included in Brooch of the month, the amber brooch was now connected to the story of a motorway extension that has cut through and caused the demolition of a neighbourhood. In another twist, Marie had obtained the headlight plastic for her Waterview Counter memorial from a West Auckland car wrecker in return for one of her brooches. She has a photo of the guy wearing his brooch. In a sense she has achieved something she set out to when she first made these works for Fingers, she has made a jewel for a man who is not a contemporary New Zealand jewellery aficionado.
Flora’s jewel had made me more scrupulous in my attention to Marie’s and I became preoccupied with its formal features, in particular the silver rim that the headlight plastic is set in. In this case the rim project quite substantially and casts a shadow on the red plastic contained within. I wondered if the design would be better if the silver rim was flush with the plastic as the polished concrete brooches Marie has made are. I remain fascinated by the rigorous geometry of Marie’s work. In the context of this story of jewels once intended for men that are now associated with homes lost to make way for a motorway, this brooch makes you wonder about the ways a formal vocabulary associated with ‘triangle, circle square’ Bauhaus has proved extremely mobile.