Each example of Modern Pearl by Kate Ive (b. 1986) is a unique object, differing from others in the edition by virtue of having been hand-made in the wax stage, rather than cast from a mould. The ‘unique’ has a reflexive and uncritical association with value and preciousness in artistic production. By combining this index of prestige with an image of the most bothersome litter, cast-off chewing gum, Ive’s medal plays with registers of value and disgust in a humorous and engaging manner. But it also carries a larger message, as she writes:
‘Modern Pearl explores how we are leaving our mark on the world and affecting nature. A natural pearl is a by-product of an oyster’s defence system against detritus that enters its shell, beautifully transforming the irritant. This piece relates the presence of our unwanted litter to the beauty of nature and questions the value of our legacy.
Following Mother Nature’s example, every Modern Pearl medal is unique in form and finish, cast from individual one-off waxes in a custom-made furnace and hand-painted to accentuate the folds and creases. Similar to the little oyster, I have meticulously handmade each stage myself. The lightly crinkled paper cradling its ‘pearl’ is a dichotomy, the upper sheen imitating mother of pearl, whilst its mottled shell-like underneath merges with the man-made silver foil wrapper.
Modern Pearl aims to play upon the holder. Transformed, it can no longer be screwed up or stick to your shoe; instead its pearl-like qualities make it worthy of treasuring like a precious gem.’
Kate Ive was BAMS New Medallist in 2011-12. At FIDEM 2012, an event that she was sponsored to attend through the FIDEM Young Artist Scholarship, she received a George Cuhaj prize for work by a young artist. She has medals in the University Museum of Bergen collection.