John Y. Wind’s “The Women” is a sculptural-assemblage testament to love and mutual admiration
When Philadelphia artist and jewelry collection designer John Y. Wind debuts his stunning, new assemblage-sculptural exhibition “The Women” starting tonight, November 13, at The InLiquid Gallery (at Crane Arts, 1400 North American Street), the local icon of tony conceptualism will seek to present the longtime connection between himself and his audience in several ways – namely, the complications that exist between public and private identity, as represented through our collective sense of materialism and consumerism. “Personalized mannequins” bejeweled with “personal mementos” will exist in a manner akin to pharaohs being celebrated and defined by their signature adornments, the things they bring into eternity.
With that, he’s asking that guests arrive wearing their favorite piece of Wind jewelry. If you don’t own one yet, there’s a charm bar so you can create your very own.
A.D. Amorosi: Four decades in the business – from here to London and back, from maximal to minimal, from volume to hand-made, one-of-a-kinds: the idea of Modern Vintage is and was yours.
John Y. Wind: Both words are moving targets, of course—when I started, Vintage meant Victorian; now it means 80’s and our ‘Punk it up’ Collection! The time machine moves fast.
A.D. Amorosi: Why by or around 2017 did you decide to focus on limited production, made in America designs and items?
John Y. Wind: From 2008 to 2017, we experienced explosive growth to the business, much of it driven by the success of a collection of personalized jewelry called Sorority Gal Initials – still bestsellers, I might add. It was one of Oprah’s holiday picks, and we happily experienced the full-on “Oprah Effect” — We sold thousands on our website and found ourselves selling to over 1000 gift shops, boutiques, websites, etc. around the country. As the trend ran its course, I found myself on a treadmill trying to design for this broader, more mainstream market and felt as if I was losing a connection to what got me in this business in the first place — being an artist who makes things by hand that last, inspire and delight. The market had changed radically as well, and the old model needed to be changed. A “return to my roots” became the logical next step.
A.D. Amorosi: Jackson Pollock once said that the light of the Hamptons inspired his most divisive work, and gave it greater texture and spirit. How does the natural light set up of your South Philadelphia warehouse space turn you on and give the work you do there greater depth?
John Y. Wind: That’s the most romantic evocation of South Philly. We moved to this incredible studio just last year — in a hundred-year-old former firehouse stable. My father’s partner, Barbara Eberlein of Eberlein Design Consultants, in partnership with Canno Design Architects, created a gorgeous, industrial-glam space to house the four aspects of my career — my business, art practice, role as President of the Dina Wind Art Foundation, and civic engagement, hosting fund and friend-raising events. The goal of the building has been to find synergy between all of this. For example, a ticketed event we held for the Cancer Support Community started with cocktails and shopping downstairs, then moved upstairs to enjoy the meal and art. We donated 25% of that night’s jewelry sales back to the organization, as well — a win-win for all. I have to give a shoutout to my father, marketing guru Jerry Wind, for partnering with me in crafting and executing this vision. Oh, and yeah, the light is pretty magical. Every Monday, the company gathers for lunch on the second floor, with light flooding through the industrial windows or out on the deck.
A.D. Amorosi: Everyone knows about your mother’s sculptures and installation pieces. What of her is in your sculptural pieces?
John Y. Wind: We are both assemblage artists, inspired by existing objects and collage.
A.D. Amorosi: How and why do you divest from that inspiration and make your sculpture your own?
John Y. Wind: What drove her was aesthetic abstraction, whereas I am creating more conceptual work anchored by portraiture and collaboration.
A.D. Amorosi: What is the Dina Wind Art Foundation to you?
John Y. Wind: My mother passed away in 2014, leaving behind a strong reputation and several hundred sculptures. My father, brother, and I created the foundation to both keep her work in the public eye, and to support other living artists by donating all the proceeds from work that we sell. Bridgette Mayer Gallery represents Dina’s estate and has been a wonderful partner in our mission (Learn more at dinawindart.org).
A.D. Amorosi: You have continued to sculpt while you have been designing jewelry all these years. Do the aesthetics/ideas/designs ever intersect, or do you make certain that you keep the forms separate?
John Y. Wind: That’s such a key question. I used to try and keep the two worlds very separate, down to having two business cards. Now I am looking for the overlap and synergy in the two worlds, bringing more art into my jewelry and lots of jewelry and celebration of women into my art.
A.D. Amorosi: This first exhibition is dedicated to women and grrrrrrl power, and features a look – “Personalized mannequins” with “personal mementos.” Sounds intriguing. Please describe in full glorious detail.
John Y. Wind: I wanted to create a series of portraits of the women in my life. But as an assemblage guy, it wasn’t a matter of carving or painting them… I came up with the notion of collaborative portraits, where we meet and talk about the different aspects of their lives, both public and private, and then I ask them to give me objects that represent these facets. I come up with an overall vision for the piece, then build, purchase, and supplement as needed to realize the final portrait, checking in and continuing the collaboration all the way through to completion. There are 25 portraits in this ongoing series, more than the gallery could accommodate at once. So this show is Part I, with a follow-up show in the works.
A.D. Amorosi: What do you want viewers who know or don’t know you to come away with after they’ve walked the length and breadth of the exhibition? About you and your art forms?
John Y. Wind: First, I want them to feel like they got to know these wonderful women a little. And then to consider the role of objects in their own lives and those around them. I believe that art helps us see the world differently. And so after seeing my show, I want viewers to have a heightened sensitivity to how these objects are reflections of our personalities, histories, and taking it a step further, self-portraits.