Melanie Bilenker, 2010 Pew Fellow. Photo by Colin Lenton.
Melanie Bilenker, Bouquet, 2009. Photo courtesy of the artist.
Melanie Bilenker, Drying, 2009. Photo courtesy of the artist.
"I am looking for ways to conjure a sense of home for the viewer and the often forgotten private moments that make up normal life."
Melanie Bilenker (b. 1978) translates the historic art of Victorian hair jewelry into work that reflects upon the contemporary era. Her delicate pendants and brooches are wearable art objects, depicting ordinary moments of everyday life—making lunch, bathing, washing dishes—with "drawings" made from resin, gold, silver, and the artist's own hair. "I am looking for ways to conjure a sense of home for the viewer," Bilenker states, referring to both her subject matter and the medium of human hair. "I see hair as proof of existence, a souvenir." Often cited as a leader in the movement to return to craftsmanship in jewelry making, Bilenker has received commissions from the Museum of Arts & Design in New York City, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, and the National Museum of Scotland, among others. She was recently included in the 40 Under 40: Craft Futures exhibition, featuring traditional and non-traditional works of decorative art created by the top 40 American craft artists under the age of 40, assembled for the 40th anniversary of the Smithsonian American Art Museum's Renwick Gallery.
"40 Under 40: Melanie Bilenker" by the Smithsonian American Art Museum.