Ashley Khirea Wahba
My head is held high but my eyes are to the ground.
Walking home, I stop in my tracks— another gem? I pick it up and admire my newly found treasure. Giddy with anticipation, I daydream about what I can help it become as I stash it away for safe keeping in what is essentially a plastic bag filled with trash. Looking at my newest addition, it becomes apparent that I have earned the title of trash connoisseur; with a critical eye I curate only the most exquisite junk I encounter. While my process consists of augmenting trash using unlikely combinations and traditional techniques, I prefer to see it as elevating elements that were already beautiful, that caught my eye from the start.
I bring these collection bags to my studio where I sort and classify my specimens on the basis of color, material, and form. I frequently attempt to recreate my most enigmatic findings, accentuating particularly interesting features. I combine complex forms to make new compositions, paying close attention to each structure as it articulates its wants and needs. As a result, the ways that I merge these objects often highlight the trash’s most extraordinary characteristics. Because the forms of many specimens speak directly to parts of the body, I contribute in ways that allow these conversations to carry on; crescent or V shapes may be suspended from the neck, and dangling specimens may hang from the ear.
While considering these pieces as sculpture help me break free from my expectations of what jewelry should be, my constant awareness of and push towards wearability (by recreating sharp, rusty lead pieces in friendlier materials, or opting to not use ropes covered in animal droppings no matter how fabulous the colors are) is where it rejoins the realm of jewelry. From worn by the environment to worn on the body, my interference allows decontextualized objects to be repurposed as elements of jewelry that are greater in value than the sum of their parts.