Contemporary artist, Stacey Lee Webber cherishes working with money, coins, banknotes whose history is physically evident. Her work is meticulous, pushing social and political boundaries to create exquisite everyday recognisable objects. By using money in her craft, Webber strives to create art that interests a broad range of viewers and challenges preconceived notions of the objects that surround them.
The Resurrection of Metal
Stacey Lee Webber always wanted to be an artist but was uncertain what form of art her passion was heading, until she studied metal-smith and jewellery making and with her love of fire this medium was ignited. In 2008 Webber was awarded a Master of Fine Arts in metal-smithing and jewellery making from the University of Wisconsin. Seven years of study in a specialised area of creating art with nonferrous metals, (no iron or steel) working with copper, brass, bronze, silver, gold and platinum to create unique jewellery and sculptures.
“The course of study really challenged me, I was asking myself why was I creating this art, and I started diving into my own history, thinking of my grandparents and their great grandparents and how they made a life, a living through history over time. There were more farms, work was different. My grandfather worked in a printing press firm whereas my father is a lawyer. I started thinking about how labour has changed over time, working with our hands being replaced by a computer relied workforce. And how we value labour from the construction worker and farmer to the lawyer or doctor. Does someone of a white collar profession have more worth over a blue collar worker? So I started working with coins, “because that is a value of money, I can physically talk about through a material that everyone can relate to.” When cutting coins I realised that these coins have a history, they have a story and in modern times that story is changing just like our labour over time.”
In Stacey’s hands, the coin is transformed, but without losing its essence. It is there where it dies and is reborn to become part of a different whole. “I redesign them, rework them, destroy them and ultimately resurrect them into something new to treasure. I bring the serious and amusing together in beautiful metalwork that keeps part of its story ever hidden.”
Webber’s sculpture of a hammer made from copper pennies is symbolic of the value of labour and encapsulates how work and money has changed over time: “As a contemporary metal-smith, I cherish working with found materials whose history is physically evident. My work is often described as meticulous, pushing the boundaries of everyday, recognisable objects to the point that they are unidentifiable. Through material, I strive to make artwork that interests a broad range of viewers and challenges their preconceived notions of the objects that surround them.”
Webber, also embroiders on banknotes making political statements on the state of the USA. During grad school Webber started stitching on the US dollar bill with a gridded pattern. In 2020 Webber created Insurrection Bills, a collection of USA bills overlayed with rebellious stitches: flames envelop monuments, a brick wall unfinished, and a wide-ranging array of face masks which disguise Abraham Lincoln’s portrait. The embroideries making a statement in stark contrast to those depicted on the various denominations. Webber felt that. “The political situation in the US is not peaceful. The country is completely divided politically. The series references feelings of anger, turmoil, and frustration during the tense political climate while decontextualising and questioning the beloved iconography we see on our money.”
“I would hope to think through time that I would be prolific, making a lot of different kinds of things, using various materials, I have a lot of ideas so I feel like trying if I can try to get those ideas out. It’s very rewarding to see a the series get flushed out or a new series happen and then try to create a breath of work that bounces off of each other, I think is very interesting.”
Stacey Lee Webber is a young artist living in Philadelphia; her art work is her passion where her ideas come to life, conceptually and technically. Webber states that being able to support herself with her passion is a dream come true. “When your work is your passion it is not work at all… it is expression of your being. I am endlessly thinking about my practice and am fully engrossed in how to continue to make my art stronger all the time.”
Webber’s jewellery and sculptures use coins in innovative ways. From dollar bill embroidery to landscape scenes made from cut coins, each limited series of works emulate her ongoing themes of liberty and labour. Check Stacey Lee Webber out on her socials.