Garden of Light

April 1, 2013  |  Amber Michelle

RAPAPORT… Just as an artist uses a palette of paints and a brush to create amazing paintings, designer Paula Crevoshay uses colored gemstones and precious metals to produce beautiful jewelry. “I was trained in fine arts and I never knew that I would be a jeweler,” recounts Crevoshay, from her studio in New Mexico. “My journey with a palette of gemstones is infinite. Gemology is a design tool for me. Light refractivity is as much a tool as color combinations. Stones are chosen for their center of light and how the light plays off the other stones. I start with a center stone and work out from there, which gives me a concept of what I want to portray. I use jewels like paint and a paint brush.”

In The Beginning
When she was 19 and an undergrad student at Virginia Commonwealth University, where she studied painting and printmaking, Crevoshay made her first piece of jewelry for a friend who was moving. “I found a pearl and drilled it, then measured her neck so that the pearl would float,” recalls Crevoshay, who later went on to get her Master of Fine Arts (MFA) degree from the University of Wisconsin.
   Pleased with the necklace, she continued to “dabble” in jewelry making, even taking a few classes, while pursuing her other art projects. But it was in an unexpected move to India that her interest in jewelry making fully developed. She had gone there with her late husband, George Crevoshay, who was making the trip as a Fulbright Scholar to prove that the fifteenth-century Buddhist text, Lankavatara Sutra, was written by more than one poet.
   “We were in Poona Maharashtra, near Bombay. It was in the mountains. We lived near Laxmi Road where all the jewelers worked. I went and hung out with them; I became immersed. George became a gem dealer and could procure rare gems. I began designing with the gems that he found and I am still using some of those stones to this day.”
   Flash forward three decades to December 2011 and Crevoshay was visiting a client in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, who surprised her by setting up a meeting with Samuel Taylor, then director of the Carnegie Museum of Natural History. “He invited us to the movie “Fallingwater,” about Frank Lloyd Wright, the following night. After the movie, we went to a gallery exhibit where I ran into Samuel, who invited me to his home for lunch the next day.”
   Taylor was familiar with Crevoshay’s work — she has a piece in Carnegie’s permanent collection — and asked her if she would do a show at the museum. “We began planning the exhibition, which we called “Garden of Light.” It is about the whole ecosystem of the garden. It is about flowers and butterflies, but all done in gold and gemstones. We wanted to bring the mineral, floral and insect kingdoms together…the dance of life and how they converge, which is in a garden,” she explains.
   Butterflies and flowers have always been an integral part of Crevoshay’s collection and she notes that many of the flowers that she has designed are “anatomically correct expressions in jewels.” Crevoshay finds flowers intriguing and not only because of their beauty. “Flowers are highly seductive and highly intelligent. They communicate with each other through scent. They mimic the scent of insects to attract them to mate. Flowers are fascinating and the beauty of a flower is like bringing sunshine into your home.”

   For the “Garden of Light” show, Crevoshay is displaying some jewelry already in her collection. She also is creating new pieces for the show, which will have 65 jewels in total, with some items on loan from collectors of her work. The pieces in the exhibit will span 25 years of Crevoshay’s career. The show will integrate with other treasures in the Carnegie Museum and will merge science, art and jewelry. “I have always been interested in combining disciplines. I did my thesis on ‘Combination of Disciplines as a Requirement for a Masterpiece in Art,’” she says. “Gemology is science, there is engineering in jewelry, art and science is profoundly expressed.” The “Garden of Light” collection is compiled in a book that will accompany the exhibition.
   In addition to the exhibition, there is the butterfly made by Paula Crevoshay in the museum’s permanent collection, which it acquired many years ago, when it hosted an exhibit, “Voices of the Earth,” that Crevoshay curated. The exhibit was comprised of work by a group of lapidaries, all in the same age group. It traveled to two other museums after opening at the Carnegie: Lizzardo in Chicago and the Gemological Institute of America (GIA) museum in Carlsbad, California.
   When she is not designing jewelry, Crevoshay and her current life partner, Martin Bell, whom she credits with helping her to live her dream, spend time working in their garden, a place where Crevoshay gains much of her inspiration. “I have a great reverence for nature,” concludes Crevoshay. “I hope to give those who view the ‘Garden of Light’ that sense of awe that takes your breath away.”
   “Garden of Light” is on view at the Carnegie Museum in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, from April 11 through August 11, 2013. 


Garden of Light

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