The Wearable Sculpture of Markéta Kratochvílová

Jewelry, more than any other element of fashion, symbolizes a culture’s ideas about money and class. In every society, jewelry defines social status based on what it considers as valuable, whether it’s rare gems, precious metals, polished beads, skull bones.

Beyond marking social hierarchy, how jewelry is worn expresses the sentiment of the individual wearer, whether it’s simply for adornment or to express a deeper meaning like wearing a ring on one’s left finger to symbolize an eternal commitment of love and devotion.

Czech artist Markéta Kratochvílová’s extraordinary jewelry runs against the standard grain. A sculptor by training, her pieces stand as a retort to what jewelry is and how we think about it. Rather than accommodating to market-driven notions of sophistication and status, she considers jewelry “sculptures that, it just so happens, can be worn.” Kratochvílová redefines traditional concepts of ornamentation by breaking away from the world of gold, platinum and diamonds, and by inventing new architectural structures for how jewelry can appear.

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Kratochvílová, who gives a lot of praise to her teacher and mentor, Eva Eisler, for inspiring her to push the envelope, is clearly testing the possibilities of what jewelry can be. She brilliantly blurs the boundaries between sculpture, decorative art, architecture, fashion and commerce, surprising, delighting and even enlightening us. Her work leaves one pondering what jewelry is exactly. Where a king’s crown symbolizes his reign over a territory and its people, and a pro-footballer’s Super Bowl ring announces victory, Kratochvílová’s pieces take us on a journey. The mystery and awe we feel upon seeing them inspire us to invent stories about their meaning and purpose.

Among her collection are brooches made from synthetic woods, large and geometrically shaped with long jutting fingers ending in sharp points. They appear alien or futuristic in their unexpected beauty.

One ring is several inches high and extends up and out in an explosion of shapes. Another resembles dwellings for miniature inhabitants from a different world, or appears to be a container of powers, ideas, or something special and precious. Unlike traditional jewelry, what makes these pieces significant is not what they are made from, but why they were made at all. They cause us to dive deep into our imaginations.

And when trying to imagine who would wear this jewelry, no one we know easily comes to mind, certainly not the usual celebrities or members of high-society we read about in the tabloids. Where Tiffany diamonds and pearls are like calling cards for the well-healed, Kratochvílová’s pieces are more like the logograms of Chinese characters or keys to portals of an unknown world. They inspire us to speak about the jewelry instead of the jewelry announcing to the world who we think we are. In fact, what is so transforming about them, is that rather than wearing a piece by Kratochvílová, the jewelry wears us.

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