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“I don’t wear jewelry,” she said, “I wear a work of art.”

The show is “a wonderful way to look at artists who are primarily painters and sculptors and are also making jewelry,” said Holly Hotchner, director of MAD, one of the only U.S. museums with a designated contemporary jewelry gallery.

For instance, a painted and crumpled piece of aluminum conceived as a brooch by John Chamberlain is a wonderful miniature sculpture. “He didn’t just miniaturize what he does in larger scale, he actually made something that has its own power as a brooch,” the director said.

One of her favorite pieces in the show are a pair of George Rickey earrings that have their own stand so “when they’re on the stand they’re actually an amazing piece of kinetic sculpture in their own right.”

The earrings, each long double pieces of stainless steel, are perfectly balanced and move “like a miniature mobile,” Hotchner said.

They are like Rickey’s huge site-specific sculptures that defy gravity and move in the wind, “except that he engineered the earrings for a head and an ear,” she said.

The exhibition highlights the surprising range of very well-known artists who were intrigued with creating something for the body.

“All these artists move freely across a lot of media. I don’t think people normally realize that,” Hotchner said. They may know that about Picasso and Calder, “but otherwise people think of an artist as a painter, potter, sculptor.”

For Cesar, his jewelry is closely derived from “compressions” of automobiles and use of discarded metal and rubbish. His “microsculpture” pieces are compressed from unwanted jewelry. For Venet, he created a rectangular box pendant from her old gold chain bracelets and childhood medals.

“It’s my jewelry but it’s in a different presentation,” Venet said.

Among some of the crazier wearable objects in the exhibition are a one-of-a-kind circuit board necklace by Nam June Paik and a necklace of real cigarettes and matches titled “New York Survival” by Donald Sultan.

The exhibition runs through Jan. 8, 2012.

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Online: www.madmuseum.org