To remember the dead

Flying in on the tailcoats of Halloween and All Saints Day is Dia de Los Muertos, the Mexican holiday Day of the Dead. To celebrate this event that honors those who have passed on, Gallery at the Network is featuring special works by jeweler Richard Jordan.

"I always thought skeletons and stuff were intriguing,” said Jordan, who has used such images in his art in recent years. It's just one of many themes Jordan plays around with. “Before that, it was pirates.”

For the current exhibit, Jordan has appropriated designs from the Mexican illustrator Jose Guadalupe Posada. “His stuff fit right in with Day of the Dead, so it was an easy transition.”

Jordan used silver to cast his current work of skulls in floral hats, and of skeletons dancing the fandango, as pins, pendants and earrings.

Although Jordan appreciates the aesthetics of anatomy, skulls and bones, not everyone shares his interest.

“People have a real visceral reaction to skeletons,” he said. “They either love them or hate them. It's always black and white.”

Mexico's most famous graphic artist, Posada died 100 years ago, but his lively images, with their strong bold lines and satirical content, are in synch with more recent editorial cartoons and comics, and have influenced Grateful Dead logos.

One of Posada's skeletal images of a high-society woman, “La Catrina,” a female dandy, is the most widely used symbol for the Dia de Los Muertos celebration. “It's pretty iconic,” Jordan noted.

Although Jordan works in sterling, silver, gold, glass and gemstones and has a consistent wedding-ring clientele, he doesn't think of himself as a jeweler. “Basically, I'm a miniature sculptor.”

As he'd done carving since childhood, Jordan took to lost-wax casting immediately when introduced to it in the mid-1970s. The method involves carving into wax, which is then cast in metal.

Other than a year studying art in Australia and some time at Otis Art Institute in Los Angeles, Jordan is basically self-taught.

He grew up in Palos Verdes, and as a single dad, brought his two youngsters to Los Osos in 1978 to escape the Los Angeles scene. Jordan is proud of raising his children by himself. “They both turned out stellar,” he said. “I don't know how I pulled it off,” adding with a smile, “It was their fault.” His daughter is a doctor, his son a general contractor.

Jordan eventually set up a shop at a former gas station in Baywood in 1995, then moved to his Embarcadero location five years ago. It was during that time the Gallery at the Network started representing him.

His art reflects his interest in other cultures and the natural world, which he has explored as a surfer and world traveler. Jordan's restlessness keeps him busy with various themes in his art, from marine life to Egyptian to Celtic to Pre-Columbian. “I'm all over the place with my art work,” he said. “I have all this goofy, whimsical stuff too.”