linda macneil: jewels of glass

january 21, 2017 - october 1, 2017


exhibition overview

Our first exhibition of jewelry, Linda MacNeil: Jewels of Glass, was open from January 21 to October 1, 2017. Linda MacNeil has been a pioneer in both the Studio Jewelry and Studio Glass movements since the 1970s. Emerging during that decade with formal training in metalsmithing, MacNeil began fashioning a body of work that combines glass and nonprecious metals—more recently augmenting them with precious materials—to make exquisite articles of adornment not rooted in narrative. 
MacNeil’s sophisticated statements over her more than 40-year career have ranged from playful, often surrealistic pronouncements to formal compositions that sometimes reference the fine jewelry from the great international houses of the Twentieth century. What unites all MacNeil’s work is her passion for making and a concern for materiality that results in her pushing to the limits the inherent characteristics of the glass—specifically, its transparency, opacity, and reflective and refractive qualities. When juxtaposed with elegant, restrained, symmetrically arranged, and often visually understated metalwork, the glass rivals precious gems and evokes jewelry and metalsmithing from ancient times through the Art Deco period to Twenthith and Twenty-first century innovations.

MacNeil was born in Framingham, Massachusetts. Fascinated by jewelry-making since a teenager, she attended the Philadelphia College of Art, the Massachusetts College of Art, and the Rhode Island School of Design in Providence, where she received her BFA in 1976. Initially fabricating small, nonfunctional tabletop sculptures as well as jewelry, by the late 1980s she began to focus entirely on jewelry.  

To date, MacNeil has created more than 700 necklaces, brooches, and earrings. This retrospective exhibition and accompanying monograph, organized by guest curator Davira S. Taragin, was the first to explore in depth the development of MacNeil’s work and her contribution to late Twentieth and Twenty-first century American jewelry. The monograph, published by Arnoldsche Art Publishers, Stuttgart, includes a major essay by Davira S. Taragin that covers MacNeil’s biography, with discussions of the development of her aesthetic and her influences. Noted jewelry historian, Ursula Ilse-Neuman, contextualizes MacNeil’s contribution within the international art jewelry movement generally, and in particular, the use of glass in jewelry over the centuries. The fully illustrated publication also contains an exhibition history, select bibliography, and a list of museum collections where MacNeil’s work can be found.  

“The exhibition Linda MacNeil: Jewels of Glass and its accompanying monograph fully recognized for the very first time Linda MacNeil's significant contribution to contemporary glass and jewelry,” shared Taragin. “The scholarly examination of the development of this innovative jeweler's stunning aesthetic and her position within the history of jewelry and adornment enhances the fields of both glass and jewelry.” 

A book signing and panel discussion were held at the Museum on February 12, 2017. Panelists included artist Linda MacNeil, guest curator Davira S. Taragin, and scholar Ursula Ilse-Neuman. 

featured images


Exhibition credit

Organized by Linda MacNeil and Museum of Glass. Sponsored by Marian and Russell Burke, Larry and Klara Silverstein and the Silverstein Family Trust, Guendolen Carkeek Plestcheef Fund for the Decorative and Design Arts, John and Deb Gross, Diane and Jerome Phillips, Art Alliance for Contemporary Glass, Farah and John Palmer, and Sharon Karmazin.