Couture jewelry maker Mindy Lam hand-weaves her creations out of wire, and she never seems to stop working.
Taubman Museum of Art Executive Director Cindy Petersen witnessed Lam in action prior to the museum’s Women’s Luncheon fundraising event last month.
“She was here early,” parked in the back of the museum, Petersen said. “I rounded the corner at 8 o’clock in the morning,” and Lam was sitting in her car, weaving more wire together to finish a brooch. She told Petersen, “I still have two hours!”
In a talk she gave during the fundraiser, Lam said that about 20 years ago, during a period of long illness, her sister handed her wire and beads to thread together as a way of distracting herself from the pain. She started out intending to make a necklace, and ended up hand-weaving a full-blown camisole.
A Hong Kong native now based in Maryland, Lam became widely celebrated in the world of high fashion for her clutches, jewelry and accessories that look as delicate as lace but are handmade using 14-karat gold wire, semi-precious stones and Swarovski crystals.
Saturday and Sunday will be the final days to see “Opulence and Fantasy: Couture Gowns and Jewelry of Mindy Lam,” an exhibition the artist created specifically for the Taubman Museum of Art.
Lam took inspiration from art in the museum’s permanent collection and from paintings included in the “Central to Their Lives: Southern Women Artists in the Johnson Collection” show that will be on display through July 18.
Her accessories and ensembles are interspersed through the galleries that hold “Central to Their Lives” and selections from the Taubman’s own vault, each piece paired with the artwork that inspired it. Lam’s works pick up the themes, color schemes and even the textures of the pieces she responded to.
As just one example, American artist John Alexander’s oil painting “Honey Hole,” one of the Taubman’s pieces, depicts a marsh filled with flowers. Lam imagined all the animals that might be hiding amid the plants and created jewelry that has mice, frogs and insects nestled among the adornments.
Some of her compositions incorporate designer clothing. Ella Sophonisba Hergesheimer’s “Portrait of Madeline McDowell Breckinridge” has been matched with an outfit that includes a Rubin Singer jacket that that was worn by Beyoncé during a rehearsal for the 2013 Super Bowl halftime show.
John Singer Sargent’s full length “Portrait of Norah Gribble,” an image that has become almost synonymous with the Taubman, has a full-length Rubin Singer dress displayed beside it, accessorized by cuffs, a neck piece and a brooch handmade by Lam.
An elegant evening gown handwoven out of wire over thousands of hours, titled “Opulance and Fantasy,” is perhaps the exhibition’s most spectacular showstopper. Petersen noted that though it looks light and airy, it weighs between 50 and 70 pounds.
The stainless steel wire camisole that started it all, “Earlier Work: Little Prince,” is also part of the Taubman show.
Lam will be at the museum from noon to 5 p.m. Sunday for a “trunk sale” where she will meet with visitors, show how her processes work and sell limited editions of her jewelry. The pieces feature a star shape — patterned, of course, after the Roanoke Star. Items from the Taubman collection sold on Lam’s website range from $39 to $78, and 20% of each sale will support the museum’s children’s educational programming.
Also at the Taubman
On display through June 20, the sprawling exhibition “Visions of Place: Complex Geographies in Contemporary Israeli Art” features photography, video, assemblages and more in a variety of media by Israeli artists from many backgrounds — Jewish, Muslim, Christian and Druze. A traveling show that premiered more than five years ago, the show does not take a political position on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, but some works do address its psychological toll. The Taubman is the exhibition’s final stop.
On the other hand, the Taubman serves as the first stop for “Ansel Adams: Compositions in Nature,” an overview of the celebrated American photographer’s career organized by the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, featuring many arresting images taken in Yosemite National Park, which Adams visited every year starting at age 14. Up through Aug. 1, the show illustrates Adams’ efforts as an artist and environmentalist, and even as a musician.
“Enduring Voices: African American Art from the David R. and Susan S. Goode Collection” premiered in February and will close Sept. 26. Taken from the personal collection of Vinton native and former Norfolk Southern chairman Goode and his wife, the show assembles a range of paintings, drawings and sculpture from internationally acclaimed Black artists such as Romare Bearden, Whitfield Lovell, Faith Ringgold and Kara Walker.
Admission to the Taubman is free. For more information call 342-5760 or visit taubmanmuseum.org.
A.R.T. at 5 Points
The A.R.T., or Assignment Ready Training program, is a free two-month course run by Roanoke-based author and illustrator Steve Stinson, working with the Virginia Department of Aging and Rehabilitative Services. Aimed toward giving occupational training to students with learning disabilities, developmental disorders, attention deficit syndrome and other mental health diagnoses, the course focuses on pursuing art as a profession.
“In the past the program has always filled, but like so many things, COVID put a hitch in it, and I’ve got openings,” Stinson wrote in an email.