Daniel Brush’s acute eye for detail, as well as the rigor and vigor he brings to his craft, comes through loud and clear in all of his creations. A poet of materiality, he is at once a metalworker, a jewelry-maker, a philosopher, an engineer, a blacksmith, a painter, and a sculptor. The late Dr. Oliver Sacks, a friend of Brush’s, once said that Brush’s work is “the result of years of incubation, years of isolation and complete immersion, which have produced his unique and mysterious objects—they are made objects, and yet they seem found.” Sacks was not exaggerating when he said years. Brush’s oeuvre—on full display in the new Rizzoli book “Daniel Brush: Jewels Sculpture”—is the accumulation of four-plus decades of steadfast, heads-down, solitary work in his Manhattan studio, alongside his wife and accomplice, Olivia, allowing for only select visits from his closest friends and certain patrons, scholars, and students.
Brush’s imagination has always run wild—from his beginnings as a concert pianist in his youth, through his early years as a painter, to now, he has always demonstrated a rare intensity. For those who have laid eyes on his intricate cuffs, brooches, necklaces, and other pieces, it may be somewhat surprising to hear that it wasn’t until making a wedding ring for Olivia, in 1967, whom he had known for just three days before marrying, that he became interested in jewelry-making. Now, his work—colored by influences from a life of painting and drawing as well as his astute interests in Japanese Noh theater and Asian art—centers around jewels and objects made from a vast assortment of materials, including Afghan lapis lazuli, aluminum, amethyst, gold, Madagascar sapphire, malachite, steel, tektite, topaz, and tourmaline.
Brush, not surprisingly, also has a deep appreciation for history and collecting. His own made objects, as well as a large library of books and found objects, are stowed or situated around his home and studio, serving, for him, as a record of passing time. Given that his pieces are not traded on the market and rarely available to acquire, Brush’s work decidedly has, as he puts it, “no value.” Instead, he suggests that the value he derives from his work comes from the connections he has developed with patrons and peers who show respect for the complexity of it all. For Brush, it is the most minute connection—the tiniest detail—that so often reveals the largest truth.
On this episode of Time Sensitive, Brush’s use of language and storytelling approaches the poetic. He and Spencer Bailey talk about memory (and interpretations of memory); his deep, monkish engagement with a wide variety of materials; and some of his most valuable tools—breathing, language, and light.