The University of Texas at El Paso’s loss is Kent State University’s gain. Visiting Assistant Professor Demitra Ryan Thomloudis was working in the metals department for the 2014-2015 academic year when she was offered to head the Jewelry/Metals/Enameling program at Kent State University in Ohio. She is currently settling into her new position and found it hard leaving El Paso after making strong connections at UTEP, with both faculty and the community. The Art Avenue met with Thomloudis to discuss her influences, her message and her future.
You just moved from Texas to Ohio, what are your plans for 2016?
I am currently in the process of settling into my new studio and new academic life here. I will be continuing my research with the hopes to continue to build new material vocabularies for future projects.
How does material and techniques influence your work?
Materials are a major aspect of my practice and truly the driving force behind my work. Aspects of material I feel can speak loudly and signal significant information to the viewer.
What materials do you typically work with?
I typically work with industrial materials that are commonly associated with architecture or construction. I am interested in how these materials can be repurposed within the context of jewelry.
Is there a message you are hoping to create through your design?
My work directly relates to architecture and the built environment. I aim to create jewelry that captures a moment between material, time and place that purposefully interacts with human form. By relating to the aesthetics of architecture in this way I see jewelry having the potential to connect us closer to the world we are surrounded by.
No, I see my work as being universal to all.
What are you working on right now?
I am currently working on a personal body of work and a collaborative collection of works Influenced by a distinctive stretch of the Interstate 10 corridor that links the metropolitan cities of El Paso and Ciudad Juárez to the sweeping landscape of Las Cruces. The result of these works will be debuted in an exhibition entitled Cross Pass which presents new and collaborative works by myself and Motoko Furuhashi as we explore this unique country/state border region.
Together we aim to create works within the construct and intentions of jewelry/object to enable an intimate physical connection between the body and the vastness of our surroundings. We are devoted to this particular stretch of highway as the baseline for our personal and shared inquiries, and respond to a land awash with dramatic terrain, vernacular architecture and a multitude of boundaries.
The current works we are showing in the magazine reflect the landscapes of El Paso—can you tell our readers a little more about this?
Yes, this work is part of five other works all entitled “Viento: BLOCK.” These pieces are made from concrete, steel and pigmented with bright colors. The forms, materials and colors are all reminiscent of the surrounding architecture and landscape of the El Paso area.
It was by accident. I originally went to school to study medical illustration. I took a class as an elective course in jewelry and was totally hooked. I had to change my major that same year.
Do you feel your interest in medicine has overlapped into your current works at all?
When I look back, I think my interest in the body has always been the driving force for my creative inquires. Medical illustration fulfilled that at one point, but what it was missing was materiality. I am absolutely in love with traditions of Metalsmithing and its possibilities. With this training I see and explore materials through the eye of a jeweler, which allows me to present materials differently than lets say a sculptor. I see this as a distinct advantage.
What challenges do you encounter to find a receptive audience to your unique style of work?
The challenge for me is that my work is not typically what you think of when you think of jewelry. I am constantly fighting an uphill battle, but at the same time I asked for it. I want to challenge what jewelry is. I make work that makes you think about the possibilities of what jewelry can be or what is presented as such. I see jewelry as being an expressive art form just like any other medium such as painting or sculpture. My work is not static, it is complete when worn on the body and therefore operates within the realm of Jewelry.
Do you have any mentors or inspirational individuals who played a key role in guiding you along your career?
I am lucky to be among and supported by a spectacular mixture of both established and emerging talent since the time I was in school till this present day. This field is so very intimate that every individual I have met over the years has contributed or inspired me and my dedication to the crafts in some capacity. I am fortunate to have studied under Kathy Buszkiewicz, Matt Hollern and Sondra Sherman who have supported me countlessly over the years, and to have encouragement from mentors such as Renee Zettle-Sterling and Rachelle Thiewes.