American Jewelry: The Susan Grant Lewin Collection

Neckpiece made of repurposed items, including pencils and wooden printing blocks.

Kiff Slemmons, Big Between, Chicago, 2020–21. Silver, wood, paper, graphite, horsehair, and mixed media. Yale University Art Gallery, Purchased with a gift from Susan Grant Lewin and with the Lisa Koenigsberg, M.A. 1981, M.Phil. 1984, Ph.D. 1987, and David Becker, B.A. 1979, Fund

Collector and author Susan Grant Lewin recently donated over two dozen pieces of jewelry by artists and makers working in the United States. These are featured in the installation American Jewelry: The Susan Grant Lewin Collection at the Yale University Art Gallery, on view through fall 2022. The collection underscores Lewin’s commitment to promoting and preserving important advancements in the studio-jewelry field and offers a glimpse into the relationships she forged with many of the jewelers. The installation demonstrates how pioneers in studio jewelry—from Art Smith, based in Greenwich Village, New York, to Peter Macchiarini, working in San Francisco—spoke to the experimental nature of midcentury design. It also illustrates the shift to increasingly conceptual jewelry, with examples like Lisa Gralnick’s iconoclastic series Black Acrylic (1986–89) and a pathbreaking brooch by Myra Mimlitsch-Gray. Lewin has a particular interest in artists who challenge the assumption that jewelry must be made from precious or valuable materials. A necklace by Claire Dinsmore incorporates a fragment of the Berlin Wall, mounted as if it were a gemstone, while a brooch by Thomas Gentille deftly mixes eggshell inlay and Surell, a synthetic resin. A complex neckpiece constructed by Kiff Slemmons from found and repurposed elements, including pencils and wooden printing blocks, was commissioned by Lewin specifically for the Gallery. The installation and related brochure were organized by Alexandra Ward, the former Marcia Brady Tucker Fellow in the Department of American Decorative Arts.

Patricia E. Kane

The Friends of American Arts Curator of American Decorative Arts

John Stuart Gordon

Benjamin Attmore Hewitt Curator of American Decorative Arts