After Rebecca Strzelec inherited her grandmother’s costume jewelry, she broached the idea of creating a touching tribute to sentimental treasures through her professional specialty – 3D wearable art.
Penn State Altoona visual arts professor, whose work has been recognized and exhibited nationally and internationally, shares her new project,
“365 grams” in an exhibition at the Altoona campus, an exhibition across
March 18 at the Sheetz Gallery of the Misciagna Family Center for Performing Arts.
Strzelec came up with the name of the project when she decided to share photos of the jewelry on Instagram and Facebook. She posted a selfie wearing her grandmother’s jewelry every day for a year. “Grams” in the title pays homage to his grandmother.
Jewelry items, while not particularly valuable, Strzelec said, have meaning far beyond that of any diamond.
“I don’t want any of the good things” says Strzelec. “It really doesn’t mean anything to me. “Good” is relative.
Strzelec’s legacy jewelry includes a range of rings, necklaces and earrings.
The exhibit features over 70 pieces of wearables made from or inspired by her grandmother’s jewelry.
Strzelec took the jewelry and repurposed it using lasers and 3D printing.
An early adopter of 3D printing, Strzelec began using the technique in 1999 while a student at Temple University’s Tyler School of Art.
His art has been featured across the country and around the world, including at the Museum of Arts and Design in New York, the Racine Art Museum in Wisconsin, and in an exhibition in Munich, Germany.
She also has a piece in the permanent collection of former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright.
“I participated in several exhibitions that last a few months in different galleries,” says Strzelec. “I think probably the most important achievement is that my work is in the permanent collections of several museums. When you have a permanent collection piece, it means that the museum has acquired your work. »
Penn State Chancellor Altoona and Dean Lori Bechtel-Wherry, who visited Strzelec’s exhibit in January, said the visual arts professor’s work touched her personally.
“Rebecca’s hard work, creativity and teaching skills continue to inspire me,” said Bechtel-Wherry. “Every year she makes Christmas tree decorations that have a special meaning in her life, and she’s given me one every year since she’s been in our middle school. I treasure them and have the complete collection. Several of the pieces that particularly touch my soul are on permanent display in my home and continue to inspire me and comfort my life. His work is truly inspiring.
Local Strzelec art collector Gail Maatman is thrilled to attend the exhibition, which she says is the culmination of Strzelec’s efforts to “to make a true artistic statement.”
“She really has a statement to make, and I love that aspect of her job,” said Maatman. “She is simply very inspiring and, having an artist and teacher of her caliber here in this field, we are lucky and blessed to have her at Altoona.”
Maatman first met Strzelec when she taught the latter’s daughter at Penn-Mont Academy in 2012. Strzelec had donated one of her pieces to the school’s auction, and c It was then that Maatman became interested in his work.
“I was just mesmerized by the piece when I first saw it,” said Maatman. “It was a necklace and it was made using a computer printing technique. It was a medallion, and on one side there was a brick wall and on the other a feather. took a bit of time but I realized it was a matter of asking which was heavier – a pound of feathers or a pound of bricks I enjoyed the humor and wit as well as the technique.
From there, Maatman started following Strzelec on social media. She said the Strzelec project is “eye-catching and definitely draws attention.”
Strzelec said the project’s connection to his late grandmother made it more intimidating than his more routine projects, which typically touch on themes like politics and science.
“It’s a different feeling” says Strzelec. “I think the difference for me is that it’s more risky. There are people in my orbit who will call me for stuff. I can’t cut corners. If it’s not good enough, I’ll let down several people who mean a lot to me. If this becomes how we remember (my grandmother), it must be really good.
Strzelec’s mother, Donna, said she couldn’t be prouder.
“We are immensely proud; there are no words,” Donna said. “It couldn’t hit closer to home. We are so proud, her father and I are both. It’s just amazing. she worked very hard on it.
Donna said her daughter has always been extremely driven and dedicated to the personal and professional facets of her life.
“She is caring and sweet, a good mother, daughter, wife and an excellent teacher,” Donna said. “As far back as I can remember, she wanted to be an artist. It has always been a constant driving force in her. She loves what she does.
Strzelec, a St. Louis native, grew up in Bucks County outside of Philadelphia and was inspired by her art teachers to become an artist.
“As long as I can remember, I was going to be an art teacher” says Strzelec. “Seeing other people passionate about art is what made me want to be an artist.”
Originally planning to teach art at the public school level, Strzelec taught her student in Philadelphia, but decided she wanted to go in a different direction. Right after graduating from Temple, she landed a professorship at Penn State Altoona, where she found her footing.
“I was very lucky, but I was also lucky because of my parents and their decisions. I’m not going to say I wouldn’t be an artist if I had stayed in Missouri, but I don’t know if I would. You always want to look back and think the path was pretty straight, but mine could have been a lot bumpier. I’m just glad I landed where I did when I did.
Strzelec said she is grateful that her journey as an artist, filled with growth and personal discovery, has led her to where she is now. 365 grams, she said, is also perhaps the most special effort of her professional career and personal life.
“It wasn’t even just about wearing it; it was to say goodbye, “ says Strzelec. “He wore each piece for one of his last times. I think in some weird way my gram knew all those years ago that that’s what I would do – that I would do something really cool and different and interesting with this job instead of just leaving it in a box.
Donna said her daughter knew she needed to put sentimental treasures to good use.
“Rebecca got all this stuff and decided, ‘I have to do something with this'” Donna said. “It’s so funny to see it again and reproduce it in a different way. It’s wonderful and really amazing to see how she has reinvented everything while keeping the original concept of jewelry. She’s very creative and I don’t know where she got that from. His grandmother hops in paradise; I know that.”
Mirror Staff Writer Andrew Mollenauer is at 814-946-7428.