Smithsonian Visionary Award Honors Artists Who Work in Metal

Smithsonian Visionary Award Honors Artists Who Work in Metal
March 10, 2023
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Warped gold bracelet

Bracelet by Mary Lee Hu

The Smithsonian Visionary Award will be presented to two outstanding metal artists, Chunghi Choo and Mary Lee Hu, during the 2023 Smithsonian Craft Show Preview Night Benefit Wednesday, May 3, at the National Building Museum in Washington, D.C. Choo is being recognized as a metalsmith who creates aesthetically and technically unique metal artworks using electroforming to produce fluid, organic shapes. Hu will be recognized for expanding the field of contemporary studio jewelry with innovative metal weaving methods, most notably by twining metal into elegant and refined pieces.

The careers of these two Smithsonian Visionary artists display original directions in design, production, and use of materials. Additionally, both have been active in the education of future artists. Choo has received several national education awards and was named Distinguished Professor Emerita at the University of Iowa, having established an internationally prominent metals program committed to students’ professional futures. Hu has spent many years teaching contemporary art jewelry, primarily at the University of Washington, where she wrote a curriculum around the global history of body adornment.

Choo strives to produce pure forms that are timeless and beautiful, evoking grace and harmony. “I like my holloware pieces to be used and add pleasure to daily life through heightened sensuousness and a feeling of celebration,” she said. Her work can be found in the permanent collections of many museums, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum in New York; the Victoria and Albert Museum in London; Musée des Arts Décoratifs in Paris; and the Renwick Gallery of the Smithsonian American Art Museum in Washington, D.C.

Hu believes strongly that jewelry is an adornment for the body, something that must be worn. Her work has been described as fusing fiber art and jewelry, structure and pattern, light and line. She is a past president of the Society of North American Goldsmiths, and her work is represented in the permanent collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art; Goldsmiths’ Hall and the Victoria and Albert Museum in London; and the Renwick Gallery. 

Selected objects from Choo and Hu will be on display during the 2023 Smithsonian Craft Show, which will take place May 4–7 at the historic National Building Museum in Washington, D.C. Both artists will participate in a lively panel discussion moderated by Jane Milosch, author, former chief curator of the Renwick Gallery and Visiting Professorial Fellow, University of Glasgow. The panel discussion will be May 4 at 1 p.m. at the National Building Museum on the topic of “The Beautifully Crafted Object: Extravagance or Necessity?,” free to anyone who purchases a ticket to the Smithsonian Craft Show.
Established in 2014, the Smithsonian Visionary Award is given annually to American artists deemed by experts in the field to have achieved the pinnacle of sculptural art and design in their individual medium. Wendell Castle, Albert Paley, Toots Zynsky, Dale Chihuly, Faith Ringgold, Joyce J. Scott, Patti Warashina, David Ellsworth and Michael Hurwitz are previous recipients.

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Heidi Austreng

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