Art meets jewellery with ‘Motley Curators’, where we speak to luminaries about the Motley that’s caught their eye, their favourite art and more.
Marcelle Joseph (@marcelle.joseph) is an independent curator and collector of art. Having worn her La Peregrina for Inauguration Day last month, Marcelle riffed on the popularity of pearls in politics. Here, she highlights the importance of supporting female creatives, the revolutionary work of Hannah Wilke and, of course, how the pearl has always been popular in politics.
What’s your favourite Motley?
I’m an independent curator and collector of art. For me, jewellery has to be all about colour, line and form – a wearable sculpture of sorts. My favourite Motley has to be the La Peregrina Necklace from the Frances Wadsworth Jones collection. It was named after a famous pearl set into a necklace in the 1960s for Elizabeth Taylor.
What do you love most about it?
I love the design because you can dress it up, dress it down, it looks classic but also has a cool, contemporary edgy vibe. I mainly collect the work of female identifying artists, so for me it’s particularly important to be supporting the work of female creatives.
“With this piece of jewellery I’m supporting an incredibly talented female designer and honouring the history of this female actor.”
Pearls have such an interesting history too. From Elizabeth I to Jackie O, I wore this necklace on inauguration day last month to honour Vice President Kamala Harris. For Kamala Harris, pearls represent power and hark back to undergraduate days at Howard University where she was a member of America’s first African-American Greek sorority. The founders were known as the ‘Twenty Pearls’.
I also really like this necklace because I love the way the screw pierces the pearls – like a woman piercing the glass ceiling.
“Like Kamala Harris, Frances Wadsworth Jones has reinvented the idea of political or power pearls, which I find really intriguing and inspiring.”
What sculpture or painting does this remind you of?
I immediately think of the pioneering art movement that started in the sixties in Tokyo called Mono-ha. Artists like Lee Ufan explored the juxtaposition of natural materials like rocks and tree limbs with man-made materials such as steel. The contemporary take on this sort of art movement can be seen in the work of Polish artist Alicja Kwade, who has recently undertaken the roof garden commission at the Met in New York.
“Kwade, like Jones, transforms natural and man made materials into something that’s both beautiful and contemplative.”
Which artist would you most like to have dinner with?
As a feminist I would have to choose the provocative American artist Hannah Wilke. She was making performative body art well before feminist discourse came into existence in the late sixties. In fact, her artwork didn’t enter the feminist canon until about five years after her death in 1998, when a theory of radical narcissism was espoused and finally accepted into feminist theory.
If you could own any object from any time, past or present, what would it be?
That’s a tricky one, but it would have to be an artwork. I would choose a body cast sculpture from the late Polish artist Alina Szapocznikow’s Lamp series that she was making in the mid-sixties in Paris. This series was cheeky, proto-feminist, joyful, trailblazing – even Louise Bourgeois had one of these lamps on her desk.