Alex Palmer in Smithsonian:
Those who encounter a piece by Jennifer Trask are likely first struck by its elegance: a baroque gold-coated necklace or an intricate floral broach. But a closer look reveals much more happening below the gilt surface: antlers woven into the necklace; snake vertebrae used as the “petals” of the broach’s flower, giraffe femurs, chicken ribs, cow and camel bones, even teeth. Despite her occasional morbid humor—such as calling one of her works of keys made of cast iron, pearls and bone, Skeleton Keys—Trask emphasizes that she does not see death in the remains that she employs, but rather a rich backstory.
Trask uses this dichotomy of nature and artifice, glamour and decay, to explore complex, seemingly contradictory ideas—and create some extraordinarily cool looking sculptures in the process. Her artworks are now on view as part of the exhibition Visions and Revisions: Renwick Invitational 2016 at the Renwick Gallery in Washington, D.C. The works span a 20-year career, and include the 1998 Poison Elixir Bracelet—a gold bracelet of 22-karat capsules containing poinsettia petals and dried blood—and the 2014 Caliper—a turkey wishbone fashioned into a gold-inflected compass. “Bones are not morbid to me, they represent a life lived,” she says. “There is a history in the remnants of a plant or animal.” Trask sees her role as drawing out that history buried in the materials, letting the “material itself dictate what it will become.” This is true in a physical sense—how far can she bend a particular horn or how careful must she be to carve antique frame fragments. It depends on the material’s density or grain. But it is true also in her pursuit of the more spiritual aspects of the material, allowing it to form its own shape and following its lead.