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The Miniature Worlds of Bruce Metcalf at Bellevue Arts Museum

June 27 - October 18, 2009


This summer, Bellevue Arts Museum brings the engaging and spirited work of leading art jeweler, Bruce Metcalf, to life. Comprised of over 70 pieces dating from the 1970s to the present, "The Miniature Worlds of Bruce Metcalf" is the artist's first major exhibition and makes its Northwest debut at Bellevue Arts Museum on view June 27 through October 18, 2009. (right: Bruce Metcalf, Deliverance from a Gilded Cage, 1994, Pins: Sterling silver, brass, 14k gold, Micarta, 3 x 1.25 inches, Stage: Painted wood, 8.5 x 7.75 x 1.25 inches. Collection of Nan Schaffer. Photo: John Wilson White)

Welcome to the wonder of Bruce Metcalf's miniature worlds, where strange, cartoon-like characters consider difficult questions of the "moral cosmos within which they -- like us -- imagine themselves small and incapable of profound change." Taking center stage are Metcalf's emotionally-distorted characters that reveal the inflicted pain of human nature's "dark side."

Physically big-headed with atrophied limbs, Metcalf's figures are born from cartoon traditions. Cast in silver or carved in wood, these strange characters examine social, moral and political issues, many of which Metcalf has raised in his essays. A close encounter with the proverbial tarantula in the "Cracker Jack Box;" a squinting fellow undergoing an empathic meltdown during the compassionate act of nourishing another in "Offering Sustenance;" a miniature train layout for static Märklin HO trains with trompe l'oeil surfaces based on an imaginary winter in a train station near Munich, Germany -- Metcalf's alluring miniaturized worlds engage the unsuspecting viewer with the artist's stories and his distinct visual language. Some of the pieces serve dual lives as wearable brooches where they venture into our world to find new meaning.

In this exhibition, size matters -- the diminutive kind. By emphasizing the miniscule, meaning is enlarged. "The miniature can only be entered through an act of imaginative projection. Looking at small objects, viewers will get very close and the object will fill their field of vision. There's no scale in the imagination, and very small things can become psychologically large." Metcalf observes. "The aim in exhibiting this private activity is to bring the viewer into a broader understanding of how miniature worlds may act upon us," states Palo Alto Art Center curator Signe Mayfield. "Such childhood predecessors of miniature worlds, like train layouts, or dollhouses, offer a lesson in contrast, illustrating how Bruce Metcalf's sculptural jewelry differs in its interiority, intimacy, and emotional content."


About the Artist

The Miniature Worlds of Bruce Metcalf is the first major exhibition and catalogue focused solely on this artist's wonderfully whimsical work. Born in 1949, Metcalf has long been recognized as a leading art jeweler, curator, essayist and critic of contemporary craft. He earned a B.F.A. degree in 1972 at Syracuse University and an M.F.A. at the Tyler School of Art at Temple University in 1977. Metcalf taught at Kent State University in Ohio from 1981 to 1991. His work has been featured in major exhibitions, including the Museum of Arts and Design, New York; Akron Art Museum, Ohio; Dayton Art Institute, Ohio; Renwick Gallery of the Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, D.C.; The Galleries at Moore College of Art and Design, Philadelphia; and the Galeria Universiteria Artistos, Mexico City. Equally adept as a curator and a critic of contemporary craft, his essays have appeared in such publications as American Craft, Metalsmith, Studio Potter and Crafts Australia. A 120-page full-color catalogue accompanies the exhibition.

The Miniature Worlds of Bruce Metcalf has been organized by the Palo Alto Art Center, Division of Arts and Sciences, City of Palo Alto, Palo Alto, California. This exhibition has been made possible through the support of the Palo Alto Art Center Foundation, Rotasa Foundation, Windgate Charitable Foundation, the Arts Council Silicon Valley and private contributions. Local viewing of this exhibition has been made possible in part by the City of Bellevue.

(above: Bruce Metcalf, Figure Pin #138, 1997, Maple, copper, brass, steel, acrylic plastic, 23k gold leaf, 4.75 x 3.5 inches. Private Collection. Photo: John Wilson White)


(above: Bruce Metcalf, Learning to Build, 1989, Sterling silver, wood, copper, 4 x 3 x 1 inches. Collection of the Chiwoo Craft Museum, Seoul, Korea. Photo: John Wilson White)


(above: Bruce Metcalf, Soul Catcher, 1993, Sterling silver, copper, wood, Micarta, paint, 3.5 x 1.75 inches. Collection of Diane and Marc Grainer. Photo: John Wilson White)

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