Dichotomy as Inspiration in Art Jewelry with Bill Harper, Artist and Enamelist

Episode 41

Bill Harper began his career as an abstract painter, but in the early 1960s switched to enameling to achieve more intense colors. Fascinated by the supernatural aura of ritual objects, such as amulets, charms and tribal power figures, he began to produce brightly enameled necklaces and brooches in gold, silver and gemstones, as well as nonprecious and found objects that evoke a similar and mysterious power. Many of his recent pieces are mythical and ironic self-portraits that suggest intense introspection.

A dedicated educator, Bill taught at Florida State University from 1973 to 1992, and published “Step-by-Step Enameling: a Complete Introduction to the Craft of Enameling” in 1973. Bill’s work has been widely exhibited, including a one-person exhibition in 1977 at the Renwick Gallery of Smithsonian American Art Museum in Washington, D.C., and an internationally traveling retrospective in 1989. His work has been featured in collections of The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Philadelphia Museum of Art and Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, among many others in the United States and Europe. Bill’s most recent solo exhibit, “The Beautiful & The Grotesque,” closed in June 2019 at the Cleveland Institute of Arts’s Reinberger Gallery.

Bill was awarded a National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) fellowship in 1978 and NEA grants in 1979 and 1980. In 1980 and 1985 he received fellowships from the Florida Council on Arts and Culture.

What you’ll learn in this episode:

  • How Bill became a self-taught artist.
  • Why Bill doesn’t identify as a jeweler.
  • Bill’s creative process for creating art jewelry.
  • How dichotomy influences Bill’s work and creates stimulation of the senses.
  • What design concepts Bill has in the works.

Additional resources:

Episode Transcript

Sharon Berman