6 April 2008 1:53 PM
In A.S. Byatt’s short story “A Stone Woman,” a middle-aged American lady realizes, slowly but surely, that her human flesh is petrifying into the brilliant stuff of the earth. Quartz and limestone begin to run through her rather than flesh and blood, a stunning sight brought magically to life in Wendy Seaward’s woven sculpture and jewelry. Working primarily with glass and metal beads, but also precious and semi-precious stones, Seaward transforms materials that in other artisanal hands serve merely to decorate wrists and necks. Under Seaward’s touch, however, they transmogrify into complicated structures that reveal an astonishing organicism, recalling in turn coral reefs, kudzu, moss, falling water, even DNA strands. While her jewelry layers the living human body with these metaphors, her masks bring them directly together, crafting a delicate face directly out of beads—or, as Byatt suggests, finding the hard, glittery, ancient material that lurks not only beneath the crust of the earth but also the skin of the human being.