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Kauffman Museum hosts exhibit of “memory jewelry”

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NORTH NEWTON, KAN. – Kauffman Museum’s current special exhibition, “Beloved: Artwork by Kristin Diener,” features handcrafted personal adornment and whimsical rolling toys.

The exhibit will be open to the public July 17- Aug. 22. Bethel alumni and the broader community are invited to a grand opening celebration Friday, July 16, from 7-8:30 p.m. The artist will offer remarks at 7:30 p.m.

“Many pieces refer directly to my Amish and Mennonite heritage, some incorporating family objects,” Diener says.

Saturday, July 17, from 2-4 p.m., Diener will host the “Bimbamboom Ring Mini-Workshop.” In just 10 minutes, each participant and Diener will craft a ring. This is an opportunity to learn metalworking techniques to shape and polish a ring while the artist wields the propane torch and nippers.

The $10 workshop fee covers admission to the museum. Participants must be five years of age or older. Enrollment is limited, including first-come-first-served for choice of time.

Diener says of her work in “Beloved”: “Travels, moving and attending different schools have greatly influenced my artwork. I have lived in Illinois, New York, Georgia, Alabama, Indiana, Ohio, Missouri, Massachusetts and New Mexico. I attended seven different public schools by 10th grade, then went on to five universities and colleges.

“I incorporate objects collected as I go,” she continues, “some bought, some found, some searched for, some given to me. I am greatly influenced by historical as well as contemporary objects, artworks, books, popular culture, politics and the natural world. I am from an Amish and Mennonite background that greatly influences who I am, how I perceive the world, and what I create. [I attended] first grade in New York and then I had a huge dose of the Deep South for second grade through high school. Though I grew up in the South and consider it to be my home, I am not really a ‘Southerner.’”

Diener’s artwork “combines what is perceived to be precious with what is discarded,” she says. “I think of it as elevating the ordinary to the sacred, and often the objects created allude to reliquaries. The relics may be mouse bones, a small plastic wrench, photographs, smashed bottle caps, Georgia dirt or a bit of cotton from Cottonplant, Ark.

“Combined with precious metals and stones, lavished with attention and metalworking techniques, the pieces I create are most often jewelry or adornment. Though not always easily wearable, they come to life in their relationship to the body.”

Diener says the exhibit is dedicated to “my parents, Tom and Carolyn Diener, for introducing me to the world and to the world of art; my sisters, Julie and Laura, for being my friends; and Judy Wenig-Horswell, artist and Goshen [Ind.] College professor, whose dynamic teaching style got me hooked non the wonderful world of jewelry and metals.”

Diener is also the granddaughter of Louella and Tilman Smith -- Tilman Smith was president of Hesston College from 1959-68.

For more information on the exhibition or ring making workshop, contact Rachel Pannabecker at (316) 283-1612.

Kauffman Museum, located on the Bethel College campus at 27th and North Main Streets in North Newton, is open 9:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m. Tues.-Fri., and 1:30-4:30 p.m. Saturday and Sunday; closed Mondays and major holidays. Admission to the museum, which also includes admission to the permanent exhibits “Of Land and People,” “Mirror of the Martyrs” and “Mennonite Immigrant Furniture,” is $4 for adults, $2 for children ages 6-16, and free to Kauffman Museum members and children under 6. For more information, call the museum at 316-283-1612 or visit its Web site, www.bethelks.edu/kauffman/.

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