Lia Purpura essay



On the Poetry of Likeness: Raïssa Bump

A metaphor is more than an expression of likeness -- it’s a gesture of belief in the kinship between things, an unexpected sense of alignment, the wild, fresh sense of a known thing made new by association with another world. Thus, in Raïssa Bump’s hands, silver – folded, hinged, polished – might reflect the movements of a summer curtain, or come to reveal how lace behaves with light. A diamond imitates a drop of fresh water, or a chip of glass in a city sidewalk. Gold learns to take wing if coaxed by a maker sensitive to the secret life of her materials, and willing to leave behind traces of her exploration, evidence of a spirit undaunted by a material’s more standard interpretations.   
            Likenesses depend on the transformations an artist sets in motion: consider the way in so many of these pieces, hardness is worked into flexibility, opacity is made to reveal a hidden clarity, how a cut-out, petal-like design suggests an abundant offering of flowers, and then, step back a bit -- even the spaces between the blooms themselves form airy bouquets.  The emotional qualities of materials, too, might be expressed by way of metaphor: in Raïssa Bump’s hand, a brooch can be complex, nuanced, full of lively contradictions like the best conversationalists -- both open and self-contained, inviting and sharp. Spend time engaging (brooch or person) and it’s clear: what’s just below the surface unexpectedly asserts. What’s on top, unveils itself slowly. The urbane has its rough spots; that which is raw, its elegance. 

And it’s not just an eye for likenesses that transforms our impressions of things -- reimagined forms offer new ways of perceiving. So if a necklace is not made for the neck alone, but encouraged to migrate down the back as well, one might feel, wearing such a piece, as if she were breaking the surface of the ocean, water cascading down the body in the form of pearls and crystal beads. Thus adorned -- encouraged in her imaginative enjoyment, and by the drama of wearing a beautiful thing -- one might act like a creature fully at home in the sea – lithe, agile, quick, free.

Raïssa Bump’s necklaces, rings, and brooches are firmly contemporary, and yet they also feel solidly rooted in the past – as if they were archeological finds.  Their forms suggest that, once, long ago, a hand worked with objects just like these, dug, or scooped with them, stitched them together or used them as sacred containers into which something treasured, to be passed down through generations, might be slipped for safe keeping. Though meant to embellish the body, contained within her jewelry is the utility and liveliness of essential tools – a quality that might suggest we reexamine the beauty of tools, and by extension, the aesthetic properties of raw materials (the gentleness of silver, the liquidity of diamonds), the organic delicacy to be found in urban landscapes, the mathematics of the natural world.  We might, with her guidance, experience the multiple expressive selves that take up residence in a single glorious object. 

-- Lia Purpura