International Exhibit finds its way to Kent

Daniel Owen

U.S., global badges connect art and culture

Original badges from the Carl Wild Bridge Factory in Hamburg, Germany are on display in at the School of Art Gallery. These badges served as inspiration for the work created for the show. Dan Owen | Daily Kent Stater

Credit: DKS Editors

Sheriffs, park rangers and boy scouts all wear badges but not like the ones currently on display at the School of Art Gallery.

The Enamel Experience International Badge Exhibition opened on the second floor of the Art Building Jan. 20. The badges crafted specifically for the exhibit are inspired by the badge collection at the Museum der Arbeit in Germany.

The traveling exhibition is curated by Elizabeth Turrell, senior research fellow at the University of the West of England, Bristol.

“Badges may be small objects, but they can nonetheless encapsulate every sphere of human activity and may have many meanings,” Turrell said.

Twenty-three artists from the United States, Germany and the United Kingdom were sent pictures of original badges from the enamel collection at the Museum der Arbeit. The pictures were intended to give the participants inspiration for creating their own unique work.

Kathleen Browne, a Kent State art professor specializing in jewelry and metals, is an avid 19th and 20th century fraternal order badge collector. She was invited to participate in the exhibit.

“Badges connect culture with art jewelry,” Browne said. “They are like bumper stickers, everyone is familiar with them.”

Browne created two badges for the exhibit. She said her badges are influenced by symbolic imagery, like the badges and jewelry from the Museum der Arbeit’s original collection, and symbolize her views on the war in Iraq.

“This isn’t the type of jewelry you would find at Zale’s,” she said, using the terms “badges” and “jewelry” interchangeably.

Browne said her working relationship with Turrell was a big factor in Kent State being one of the stops for the traveling show.

Anderson Turner, director of galleries for Kent State’s School of Art, said the art program is grateful to have such internationally known professors in the trade.

“We are very lucky to have (Browne),” he said. “We lean on our faculty and their relationships with colleagues.”

Just like other forms of art, everyone has their favorite badges.

“My favorite is the group of kite pins,” Turner said.

Other works on display include abstract badges, military and political badges and even the story of one artist’s family – through badges.

The Enamel Experience is a project formed by the Centre for Fine Print Research in England along with the Museum der Arbeit.

All the badges in the exhibit are made of enamel, created through the process of bonding glass to metal with the addition of heat.

Kent is the sixth stop of the traveling exhibition.

The Enamel Experience International Badge Exhibition is on display through Feb. 27 at the School of Art Gallery on the second floor of the Art Building and is open 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., Tuesday through Friday.

Contact School of Art reporter Daniel Owen at [email protected].