A recent recipient of the Pew Fellowship in the Arts, Melanie Bilenker’s work is an exciting mix of technical ingenuity and profoundly intimate concept. Translating 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 throughout the world. Most recently her work was included in The Smithsonian Museum of American Art’s 40 Under 40 and Jewellery Unleashed at the Museum voor Moderne Kunst, Arnhem, Netherlands. In 2014 she was featured in the exhibition at the Museum of Art And Design, New York, Multiple Exposures.
Selected Public Collections
Smithsonian Museum of American Art, DC
Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, NY
The Mint Museum in Charlotte, NC
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, MA
National Museum of Scotland
Philadelphia Museum of Art, PA
Yale University Art Gallery, Hartford, CT
Museum of Fine Art, Houston, TX
Museum of Arts and Design, New York, NY
Newark Museum, NJ
Racine Museum of Art, Racine WI
The Victorians kept lockets of hair and miniature portraits painted with ground hair and pigment to secure the memory of a lost love. In much the same way, I secure my memories through photographic images rendered in lines of my own hair, the physical remnants. I do not reproduce events, but quiet minutes, the mundane, the domestic, the ordinary moments.