Ciane Xavier Is The Pop Surrealist Making Wearable Art
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Ciane Xavier Is The Pop Surrealist Making Wearable Art

Photographed by Jan Mayo

The artist is taking a techno-optimistic approach to her craft.

“This mask is meant to symbolize the growing trend of censorship and cancel culture in today’s society,” Ciane Xavier says as she dons a piece of jewelry that covers half of her face. 

The bas relief sculpture of a human head with rabbit ears, a recurring motif in her work, was created in her home studio, intimate compared to her main space where large sculptures are fabricated. In this room, she keeps a specialized 3D printer for liquid resin printing and its required curing machine. Sets of tiny scrapers and pliers are arranged on her work desk, along with jewelry hardware components. Against the wall is an Alienware desktop, which she uses to design games and render sculptures. 

Ciane’s jewels are palm-size, provocative versions of the human-scale figural sculptures she is well-known for. She puts on a collar necklace made of a miniature human body stretching out, curving backward, wrapping around her throat to seemingly choke her. Then she clasps on an earring in the shape of an ear; the effect was like being on the set of a sci-fi film. On her fingertips, she slips on delicate fingernail ornaments. Ciane designed these pieces so that the public could engage with her art on a personal level, as part of their daily activities, “instead of sitting on a shelf or hanging on a wall.” We tried on the jewelry. They fit well on the body, lightweight and comfortable to wear. 

The process of 3D printing jewelry is more complex than at first glance. Liquid resin is poured into the machine and prints in layers. The pieces come out in a rough state, with intricate support fragments attached to them. A tedious post-process follows with washing in an alcohol bath, curing under UV light, meticulously trimming away the support, sanding and filing with metal tools and a handheld drilling machine, until the final pieces are glossy and refined. Finally, Ciane adds a top coat of liquid resin.

Born in Brazil, Ciane began her career as a fashion model that led her to live and work in 14 different countries before settling in the Philippines. Now her home for the past decade, she shares that she’s been fortunate enough “to build a family here, with my Filipino husband and our two children. Living in the Philippines has played a significant role in shaping my artistic and creative work, and most importantly, provided me with an inestimable sense of belonging.”

Ciane Xavier Jewelry
Photographed by Jan Mayo

The constant migrations that preceded Ciane’s final relocation generated a keenly felt loss of cultural identity, but also explain her dexterity in shifting nimbly between mediums and art forms. As she reconstructs her own identity, she simultaneously examines the greater distorted sense of identity that has arisen in an era influenced by social media and its effects on behaviors and ways of thinking. She does this by portraying bodies that are at once humorous and disturbing, with details like enlarged feet, branches growing out from the ribs, and animal ears. Such imagery provokes her audience to reflect on vulnerability when issues of body shaming and mental health have come more visibly to the fore. These concerns are especially relevant in the Philippines, where over 70 percent of the population or 84 million people are social media users.

Completely self-taught, Ciane primarily works on pop surrealist mold and cast sculpture, figurative painting, and video installation. In the past few years, her work progressed to large scale 3D printing, virtual reality, and immersive multimedia. She consistently experiments with industrial materials and various technologies, increasingly merging human and non-human elements in exploring her recurring themes. Currently, she is working on 3D printed animatronics. Her recent move into jewelry-making comes as no surprise, as the intimacy of jewelry and its relationship with the body relate to her ongoing social investigations. 

Pop surrealism is a populist movement with cultural roots in underground comics, Japanese anime, punk music, graffiti, and street art. Humor and sarcasm are used to critique pop culture. Jewelry has always been symbolic since its prehistoric roots. Artists’ jewels are further embodied with meaning, consistent with what their art attempts to convey. In this sense, artists’ jewels can be considered “critical jewelry”—jewelry that goes beyond decoration and moves into the realm of social critique. Ciane predicts that we are headed to a future where technology will be progressively relied on for solving societal problems.

Ciane’s jewelry collection, titled “Wear My Things,” are made of porcelain resin and have the smooth luminosity of otherworldly skin. Commenting on her choice of material, she says keeps them white to bring focus purely on their form. “My goal is to create a design that is readily printable and can be produced seamlessly from the computer to fabrication stage, requiring little or no additional metal and modifications to make it wearable,” she explains. By finding ways to streamline the production process, Ciane hopes to contribute to a more mindful and responsible approach to jewelry design.

At the end of World War II in the mid 1940s, the studio craft movement was born, and with it, studio jewelry. Studio jewelers craft the pieces themselves in unique editions or small batches, working from their studios instead of a big factory or atelier. In the 1950s, the concept of a “critique of preciousness” democratized jewelry. Makers started experimenting with inexpensive materials and found objects so that artistic jewelry would be affordable to more than just a small fraction of society. 

Ciane Xavier Jewelry
Photographed by Jan Mayo

Throughout the history of artists’ jewelry, artists were less interested in the economic value of materials as measured from the weight of precious metals or the qualities of a diamond. They were more drawn to prosaic materials that were available and accessible to them. Alexander Calder, who is widely considered the founding father of artists’ jewelry, would manipulate wire, beaten brass and even cutlery, using only a hammer and an anvil, and a set of pliers. His jewelry was famously worn by the legendary collector Peggy Guggenheim. These artists were freed of luxury jewelers’ standard métier, which usually requires a team of specialists to build and assemble each component. 

Ciane’s work is my first encounter with an artist who uses a “technocratic” approach to jewelry design. Describing her work as posthuman, she explains, “The ways in which we create and construct things are changing rapidly. I believe that 3D printing, within the context of post-humanism and the future of design and engineering, offers a unique opportunity to surpass our human limitations and push our abilities beyond the confines of our biology.” Ciane envisions a near future where we will be able to share ideas and produce items from the comfort of our own homes, with 3D printers becoming a common appliance in households. 

“We are entering a new era of design and engineering,” the artist proclaims, “one that is more accessible, decentralized, and innovative than ever before.” 

Vogue Philippines: August 2023 Issue

₱595.00

By Stephanie Frondoso. Photographs by Jan Mayo. Makeup: Luis Buñag of Estée Lauder. Hair: Khrystine Soriano of Estée Lauder. Photographer’s Assistant: Nathan Escano.

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