Klimt02 is one of my favorite web resources, a great place to investigate the “who, what, and where” of contemporary jewelry. Last week, I stumbled upon a clever new series of necklaces by Anya Pinchuk. Each piece is called Invisible Necklace for Russian Spies to Recognize Each Other While on a Secret Mission in the US. It was not the sly title that first captured my attention, but the haunting opulence and mystery of the designs.
What were these peculiar pieces made from? How was it possible for an artist to respond to a current event so quickly and in such a fully resolved way? I had to know more, so I set off on my own secret mission and went straight to the source, Anya Pinchuk, for some answers. (Cue detective-show soundtrack.)
The headline that provoked the invisible necklace series just broke in the last week or so. Were you immediately inspired by the story?
I’ve had the idea for invisible jewelry for some time. I love to read spy and detective novels as well as watch CSI (hence the black light). I wanted to make a piece of jewelry that you don’t even see until you are in a special environment, such as a crime scene, or more trivially, a nightclub.
Last year I made rubber stamped jewelry using traditional pieces from the Victoria & Albert Museum, but that series didn’t make much sense. At least I didn’t feel I had accomplished what I wanted to with the work. There was no humor.
This June I had an exhibition at Quirk Gallery in Richmond, Virginia. I showed invisible necklaces stamped with images of Soviet symbols, but it was still too serious. This Russian spy scandal just brought everything together. Now all the spies can look pretty when they have their secret meetings!
How did you apply and photograph this super secret jewelry?
The water-based invisible ink is stamped directly onto a person’s skin. You need a black light just to apply the pieces. This series has seven different stamps that a person can mix to create as much jewelry as they wish. (That also gives spies an opportunity to create coded messages.) I photographed this series with a regular digital camera in a dark room with only a black light on.
Do you foresee more accessories for espionage in your future?
I am thinking of making a few more stamps for the American spies that soon will be caught in Russia!