Emily Zilber

Around 1990, Yager began to make jewelry out of the stuff of the streets—crack vials, syringes, bullet casings, and broken auto glass—that she found around her North Philadelphia studio. This necklace embodies calls for action against insidious threats to American urban life: drug addiction, poverty, racism, violence, and exploitation. Today, the materials may link to ongoing debates around drug legalization, mandatory minimum sentences for drug offenders, and urban policing and the Black Lives Matter movement. Arranged in the form of a Maasai beadwork collar, Yager makes another political statement by connecting the role of beads in the African slave trade, the loss of personal agency inherent in drug addiction, and the long-lingering aftereffects of American slavery on contemporary racial and economic disparities.

necklace made of crack vials
Jan Yager, American Collar II, from the series City Flora/City Flotsam: The American Dream aka The American Deal, 1996. Plastic, rubber, stainless steel, sterling silver, 139 crack vials, 222 crack caps, 2 syringes (found), sterling crack cap (cast); Gathered, sanitized, sorted, rilled, strung, cast. The Daphne Farago Collection, 2006.
Author
Emily Zilber is the Ronald C. and Anita L. Wornick Curator of Contemporary Decorative Arts.