“Probably due to their dimensions,” wrote the Surrealist artist Man Ray, “the two lips resembled two bodies embracing. It was very Freudian.” He is describing his Observatory Time—The Lovers (1936), an eight-foot-wide painting featuring an elongated pair of flame-red lips hovering in a pale sky, an observatory visible in the distance, perhaps bearing witness to a fiery passion. Man Ray’s work was a cri de coeur over his dashed love affair with the siren and muse Lee Miller. Decades later, in 1970, he transformed the red lips of his painting into the gold lips of a pendant brooch, a talisman to love. Like so many artists, Man Ray was using jewelry as a new medium for creative expression. Paintings and sculpture could become precious metal and gems—sculpture to wear.
The best known of these artists-cum-jewelers is the ever delightful Alexander Calder, the granddaddy of the bunch. Beginning in the 1930s, Calder’s wife and friends became walking mobiles when wearing the artist’s necklaces and bracelets, primitive executions in bent, curled, and twisted silver and brass.