Installation shot from Small Works, 2020 (Erica's piece in center)
Installation shot from Small Works, 2020 (Erica’s piece in center)

To many artists, I would guess that submitting to the Small Works Exhibition would be working under a constraint to keep the piece within the size limitations. In contrast, for me it is more of a permission to expand. Most of my typical work is in the very small scale of jewelry. This also applies to many of my paintings.

Yes, for a few years now, I have included canvas paintings as a focal in select pieces of jewelry instead of using traditional gemstones.

Painted Golden Ginkgo Necklace - Brass, canvas, acrylic, freshwater pearls, 14k filled clasp and chain
Painted Golden Ginkgo Necklace by Erica Bapst – Brass, canvas, acrylic, freshwater pearls, 14k filled clasp and chain

It is a fun exercise to work on a small scale. It really allows the chance to pause and examine what details are of the greatest importance. When I work small, it is nearly impossible to fit every visual attribute. Even if I had the skill to paint or sculpt on such a level, I feel it would be too much for the eye to find visually pleasing. I set out the goal to find just the right notions of the subject to convey the essence rather than a precise replica. This applies to both the painting and the metalwork. For example, when I sculpt the leaves from a sheet of brass, though they are patterned directly from the actual leaves of the historic Clifton Springs ginkgo trees, the hammered texture I give them is in no way a duplication of the real life. I am looking to capture the grace found in the curves and lines of the leaves. In the painting, I am looking to emulate the feeling the light gives as it shines through and sometimes glints off of the various parts of the trees as they stretch tall into the sky and sway with the breeze. I guess this is all to say that somehow, I am trying to share the emotion I feel when out in nature – attempting to visually convey the intangible.

Erica Bapst's studio
Erica Bapst’s studio

Jewelry and metalsmithing have been my primary focus for the past 20 years of my life, however painting has been a constant in my life for as long as I can remember. I have always considered myself a jack (or Jill rather) of all trades. One of my favorite things to do is to try and find ways to intersect all of the skills I have gathered through the years and create something unexpected. For this year’s Small Works submission, I decided to create something that focuses in on my two greatest loves, metalsmithing and painting to create a three dimensional scene using the re-occurring theme in much of my work, the ginkgo. I focus on the ginkgo in my work as a symbol of unique beauty, strength and resilience. The ginkgo is a beautiful living fossil and is the last of its species. It is a survivor against all odds, and every leaf is unique. Typically, in my jewelry I focus on the beauty of the individual leaves, to help remind people that our beauty is in our differences and that we all have a strength and resilience within us. With this mixed media piece, I wanted to give some focus to the tree as a whole community. The unique and individual leaves are all part of a greater whole, and it is in that spirit of unity that the strength and resilience springs forth. The golden light of the ginkgo tree in Autumn is something to behold.

Making the gingko leaves for Ginkgo Grove, Clifton Springs—included in Small Works, 2020
Making the gingko leaves for Ginkgo Grove, Clifton Springs—included in Small Works, 2020

I have lived in Canandaigua for the majority of my life. The infinite beauty of nature that surrounds us here in this region has been a heavy influence in my artistic life. Living here has afforded me not only the chance to be steeped in the glory of the Finger Lakes landscape, but of its people too. From my experience in the Canandaigua Schools, to the time that I spent at Finger Lakes Community College which I treasure the most, I have had the pleasure and honor to have learned from so many wonderful artists and mentors. After graduating from Syracuse University in 2001 with my BFA in metalsmithing, I came back home and opened my jewelry shop “Adorn” in Canandaigua. The shop had a physical presence in downtown Canandaigua for 13 years, and now is continuing on in the virtual world and art shows and is celebrating it’s 16th anniversary this month.

You can find more about me and my work through social media and the online shop.

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