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Local jewelry artist talks about ArtPrize; role of art in her life

Local jewelry artist Christine Dexter shares her views on the city's largest art event, Artprize 2011, and what inspires her work.
Christine Dexter

Christine Dexter /Steve Dexter

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Vintage Necklace

Vintage Necklace /Steve Dexter

“An artist should be able to create with any material they are given,” states Christine Dexter, local jewelry artist and mother of three young children. Dexter currently enjoys creating eclectic jewelry, which she has sold at local craft fairs and artisan markets for the past eight years. 

“I consider myself an artist; I can work with many different materials,” she says. “I received my Bachelors of Fine Arts degree with an emphasis in metalsmithing. However, my BFA show consisted of pieces made with metal, clay, and many drawings." 

She worked as a jeweler for 12 years during and after she received her BFA degree from Grand Valley State University. She found the work rewarding and believes it is what made her a better artist. 

Dexter honed her art skills by entering juried art shows over the years, and even sold a ceramic sculpture through a museum in Muskegon, which she modestly adds was “pretty cool.

"I am thrilled that Grand Rapids is hosting such an amazing art contest which pulls people into our city from all over the world," she says of Artprize. "I am thankful that people who live in Grand Rapids, some who have had limited exposure to art in the past, have experienced and appreciated art in a new light through ArtPrize." She does not have a piece of her work in this year's competition, but would love to enter in the future. "I would probably create a piece using mixed media and a lot of textural elements."

Dexter is very specific when talking about how she experiences art. “If the piece provokes a thought, idea, opinion or stirs emotion,” she offers, “all this can happen through the piece’s subject matter or in an abstract way.”  

Her exposure to art began at five years old when she started drawing, but it was in a high school metalslmithing class where she learned soldering, riveting, enameling, forging, and raising - techniques that use tools to heat, manipulate, texturize, and shape the metal to make metal art.

Once Dexter completed the class, she knew art would be her career path.  She finds art rewarding, therapeutic, and couldn't imagine her life without it.  "My goal was always to become an artist," she says.

When Dexter discusses how she views a piece of art, she is tactical in describing the details of the piece, relating it to her experience and skills. She uses her friend David Huang's ArtPrize entry, found at the Grand Rapids Art Museum, called Numinous Community as an example. "I have always been inspired by [Huang's] work," she says. "The series of vessels he entered this year is amazing.  I love texture and he has a wonderful selection of different textures, colors, and sizes."

Dexter's metalsmithing knowledge is what makes her truly appreciate Huang's work. "Manipulating metal to that extent is amazing. He starts with a flat piece of copper and has to pound it in circles starting in the center and working outward, over and over again to get the metal to rise into those shapes,"she describes. "He also must anneal, heat the metal, to relax the molecules to continue to pound and manipulate them."

The details and techniques Dexter observes in other artist's work is what she channels into her own jewelry designs. “Texture, fun and color," she says.  One of Dexter's jewelry pieces, a long pendant necklace, is created with old pocket watch pieces mixed with textured metal, creating depth and contrast.

Dexter's enthusiasm for art is contagious. “It’s such a great feeling of accomplishment to create. Then to have others appreciate and comment on the pieces you have created, takes it to an entirely different level." This is one of the reasons she enjoys doing art shows and craft markets. The other reason is that it fits into her busy home life.  Eventually, Dexter hopes to have a studio where she could have room for materials and use tools that would make use of her metalsmithing again.

She currently creates art at home and uses available materials, especially recycled or found objects she can be manipulate without having to use a torch or soldering gun. For now, she has been successful keeping art as a focus in her life even with limitations. “I love creating no matter what my limitations. The act of creating is a large part of who I am and my thoughts always lead to the next piece.”

Dexter also likes being inspired by viewing a wide variety of art and with so many types of art on display right now during ArtPrize, it could be intimidating to the occasional art viewer to know how to gauge what is good and bad about a particular sculpture or painting."

“I think a good piece of art speaks to the viewer. I don’t think you necessarily have to seek out a response from the piece, but gaining a better understanding of the artist’s intent and how the piece was created does help you appreciate a piece. But I think the piece should be able to initially stand on its own.” 

Dexter believes that a person should access their personal life experiences when trying to relate to an art piece. Viewing art is a personal thing and not every viewer is going to feel the same way. “Either a piece moves you or it doesn’t,” she states emphatically. “That responsibility is on the artist, not the viewer."

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