Warning to San Diego visitors: even far from Pacific beaches, you may encounter jellyfish. Not the genuine, stinging article, but the kind that only Arline Fisch can create. Her ethereal medusas can be viewed in the exhibit Fisch Out of Water at the Mingei International Museum at Balboa Park.
Considered one of the most distinguished jewelry designers, San Diego artist and professor of art (emerita) at San Diego State University has been long-known for distinctive jewelry that covers large portions of the body. Fisch Out of Water is her first major installation of life-sized jellyfish, sea anemones and coral, 150 in number, and all crocheted, machine knitted or spool knitted from color-coated copper wire.
As one of the more influential artists in jewelry and body adornment, Fisch has been recognized by the Smithsonian Institute. Her work has been described as, "highly personal and inventive in form, retaining an air of delicacy and femininity." She has forged the way for other contemporary artists to apply textile techniques, such as weaving, knitting, crocheting and braiding to sculptural work in metal.
To create her oversize body jewelry or sea animals, Fisch works with small-gauge coated wire or magnet wire, which is typically used in armatures, transformers and motors.
Highlights of the exhibit include:
• Orthocanna: a transparent "commune" made of multiple pod forms called zooids that are joined to a bright pink central digestive element. According to Fisch she translated this complex creature that measures five to seven feet into "machine knit units that are crocheted at the edges to define the form and attached them to a central tube. A pink yarn is threaded through the center."
• Black Sea Nettle with tentacles measuring eight to ten feet long. The jellyfish is made of coated copper wire. Textile techniques include spool knit, machine knit and crochet. Fisch says, "A 20-foot long creature washed up on the beach in San Diego and a second one was photographed in the water in full color. The image appeared in my local paper and was a great inspiration..."
• Coral Groups, each coral measures from 8 to 12 inches high. Made with red, purple, orange and gold coated copper wire; machine knit and crocheted.
According to Martha Ehringer, public relations director at The Mingei International Museum, the response to Fischer's sea creatures has been extraordinary. "People enter the gallery, the stop at the edge and stare up in amazement."
Fisch Out of Water continues through May 16, 2010.
For more information call 619-239-0003. For aspiring jewelry or jellyfish designers the museum is offering a workshop led by Arline Fischer in early March. Fisch will teach her techniques to create one jellyfish and a bracelet.