© 2018 by Lissy Selvius

PANACEA PLACEBO

2017

Panacea Placebo is an exhibition of 80 amulet necklaces, inspired by our faith in, and attachment to jewelry, and the continued visibility of amulet symbols in contemporary culture and fashion. Amulet is a form of jewelry meant to protect you from a physical or mental malady. Throughout history, amulets have been a way to help people cope with the unknown. Historic amulet symbols can still be found in contemporary culture, readily available in the fashion jewelry section of department stores. The amulet’s power is created through a placebo effect, and it’s use as a transitional object. Transitional object is a term from psychology that refers to objects that bring comfort to a person like a child that keeps their blanket with them at all times. I relate it to amulet because of the psychological and emotional connection between the person and object. Through that object the user is enabled to approach life without fear or anxiety.

The necklace format allows the amulets to be in close contact with the wearer. The work has a range of scale to suit the diverse personal purposes of a wearer. The larger pieces can be a visual distraction between the wearer and the viewer, offering protection by way of diversion. The smaller necklaces can be hidden, and more personal, not letting the outside world know that protection is needed. The amulets in Panacea Placebo, no matter what their historical reference is, are meant to protect the wearer by the confidence the placebo effect gives them.

The necklaces can be divided into five categories: Ankh, Eye Bead, Heart, Horned Hand, and Corium, four of which are abstracted from traditional symbols of protection. The ankh is an Ancient Egyptian hieroglyph meaning life. As an amulet it helped the wearer know that they would have eternal life. Eye Bead references the Turkish blue eye bead, which is used for protection from the evil eye, a malicious gaze used with the intent of physical or mental harm. The heart as an amulet for love can be traced back to Saint Margaret Mary Alacoque’s vision of the sacred heart, a symbol for Jesus’s love for the church. This symbol is also used in milagros, a Mexican amulet. It can be for emotional protection of the heart and one’s faith, but can also be used as an amulet to protect the physical heart. Horned Hand references the mano cornuto, an Italian amulet against the evil eye, which appears throughout history as a jewelry charm, and a hand gesture. These four groups in the context of their original culture and time period were created as protection from their contemporary maladies. Even when these amulets were intended to protect from physical issues, the psychological effects, giving confidence and faith, were the real protection. The fifth group, Corium, which means skin in Latin, is meant to be an amulet for modern times and culture in material choice, and to protect from the common contemporary issue of mental illness. In a society where psychological problems such as depression, anxiety, and schizophrenia run rampant, Corium offers confidence and emotional protection from these mental issues through the placebo effect of one’s connection to the object. To represent the inner tensions these mental illnesses can cause, this group abandons historic reference in favor of process-based forms.

Historically amulets were made with whatever materials were available at the time of their origin. To connect my amulets to modern times I use aluminum, something that surrounds us in contemporary culture. Made with aluminum, silver, copper, steel and leather, the five categories are unified by suggested anatomical form, format, material process, and aesthetics. The work in Panacea Placebo covers the walls of the gallery in a seemingly unorganized accumulation. Within the accumulation, mounted at wearer height are 15 principal pieces. These pieces are meant to draw attention through their larger scale and to help the viewer notice that there are five different groups.