Local artist's unique style earns international acclaim

By Christy Nadalin
Posted 12/23/21

Local artist Kendall Reiss was selected as one of only two artists in the United States for the "Tincal Lab Challenge 2021: Jewelry in Nature" exhibit.

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Local artist's unique style earns international acclaim

Posted

With a background in geology, Bristol artist Kendall Reiss has always felt strongly connected and inspired by the natural world.

Struck by the design and art focus of Porto, Portugal, where she vacationed in 2019, she responded to a call for entry to an art exhibit that asked artists to question “the action of humankind and appeal to sustainability and ecological awareness” through a reflection “on the current situation and human vulnerability to natural causes greater than us,” according to the exhibit literature.

“I’m drawn to projects that make me think in proximity to land, and natural materials,” Reiss said. “This call to entry was very exciting to me.”

She selected three botanical specimens with medicinal properties, native to Porto. Using older scientific illustrations, she created cyanotypes, photographing the image and printing on clear acetate. When that negative is placed over paper treated with photo sensitive chemicals, exposed to UV light, and washed, a blue and white image emerges.

Reiss moved the larger images around to find interesting samples that would fit into a space small enough to be set on a ring; she used a blade to cut out those pieces. Each ring features a quartz rock crystal lens that magnifies the embedded botanical image, creating something local, relevant and wearable. The collection of cyanotype rings seeks to evoke the healing elements of nature and how humankind is destroying such gifts to its peril.

“I was interested in translating the image into something handmade,” said Reiss. “And I was seduced by the blue.”

“These materials from nature have been used as a form of healing over time are a metaphor for the necessary healing that needs to occur relative to COVID-19.”

Reiss was selected as one of only two artists in the United States for the Tincal Lab Challenge 2021: Jewelry in Nature exhibit. The exhibition in Porto is open through the end of the month. Both the works and the print catalog can be viewed or purchased here.

For Reiss, the rings she created for the Tincal Lab Challenge were inspired by a project she’s been working on locally — very locally. Her “Being With Trees” initiative focuses upon a tulip tree on Hope Street, and acknowledges this particular tree as a witness to 230 years of history. Reiss received a Rhode Island State Council on the Arts Individual Artist Grant to support the publication of a free artist book that will be installed in spring 2022 beside the tulip tree.

“These trees have witnessed some of the greatest atrocities in history as well as several hurricanes and shifts in the earth’s climate,” said Reiss. “Engage with it if you want and share a sense of wonder.”

Though Reiss, like everyone, experience a pulling back in the past couple of pandemic years, she’s as busy as ever in her Wood Street studio where she has been for about five years. She’s enjoying the new energy emerging from the revitalizing Unity Park, working on commissions and teaching at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts at Tufts University in Boston.

You can see more of her work and keep up with the Being With Trees project at kendallreiss.com.

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