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Michael Reid Hunter

Artist Statement

michael reid hunter, goldsmith, wondermonger

I wrote my thesis for my MFA from Cranbrook Academy of Art, in 1989 on “Artifact and Appropriation: Notes Toward a Morphology of Charms”.I have long been fascinated by charms, amulets and talismans and their shift in meaning as they move between cultures.“Appropriation” has recently become a term of condemnation, but the exchange of charms and artifacts has long been a fact of history.One of my favorite recent examples is that of a richly dressed Masai warrior wearing a Western toothbrush through his earlobe.This may be “merely” decoration, but ornament and personal power have long been intertwined; from entire dowries worn as ornament in many African, Asian and Mideastern cultures, to the contemporary massive gold chains preferred by rappers.Wealth is energy, and ornament (jewelry) helps its owner feel embellished, proud and powerful.

My work lies at the intersection of personal ornament and the magic that culturally mysterious objects bring to the bearer.I have long used ancient coins, mysterious amulets of bone, fossil walrus and mammoth ivories, apocryphal amulets of the early Christian churches, Celtic and Thai cultures to embellish the combinations of objects that comprise my earrings and pendants.I am an adoption agency of sorts, inviting customers to take on the ownership of a small, powerful collection of objects and help them continue their journey, and in the process, both discover new powers within yourself and add new items to your personal stash of power objects.

I took my first experiential shamanism course in 1988, midway toward my MFA in metalsmithing.I had studied Siberian shamanism extensively from a religion minor in my undergraduate degree, but had never actively participated.Taking a workshop in Cleveland, in the fall of 1988, from Sandra Ingerman, then working with the Foundation for Shamanic Studies, propelled me into a vivid world of helping spirits, adventure and exploration in the spirit world that would profoundly shift focus in my final graduate year.The making of my jewelry suddenly became luminous and far more personal; I was making objects that protected and expanded the wearer; this was serious business. I have remained in this direction ever since in my work.However whimsical my work occasionally seems; the underlying demand is that it enlarges its owner; making them feel both empowered and complete.I use the archaic noun, ‘wondermonger…one who deals in wonders.’ to perfectly describe my passions and my work; these bits from forgotten cultures are indeed wonderous. Back to the concept of an ‘adoption agency’; you will recognize when a piece speaks to you, it will both support, empower and compel, and adopt you.Look carefully, and listen to your intuition; it is the wisdom that you have accumulated through lifetimes.It speaks pure insight and truth.

And, have fun; dance with the work and listen. and enjoy.

Thank you.
michael reid hunter
September, 2017