Hudson Valley Jeweler David Urso believes in the "inspired way" and following life’s organic path…“I never follow a straight line. I’m always looking for inspiration to take me wherever it is meant to.” It is the way he lives his life, and it is the way his illustrious career has evolved from his Signature Collection to his current Altered Stone Collection to his new Modern Victorian Collection.
Urso’s devoted clientele cover a wide range of women of taste from Melinda Gates, Carol Meyer to a mighty posse of artists that include Deborah Harry, Melissa Leo, Elizabeth Bracco, Oprah Winfrey, Gwyneth Paltrow, Isabella Rossellini, among others, including Hudson Valley locals and weekenders from NYC.Occasionally a client will act as muse, inspiring a piece or even a significant collaboration. Madison Avenue store owner Yuta Powell encouraged Urso to experiment with elaborate, one of a kind fashion pieces for a private collection. He created unique 18k gold necklaces and accessories for the Yuta Powell Store on Madison Avenue, New York City. In 1990 Urso launched the Signature Collection and The New York Times Style Maker took note. The collection was an immediate hit and was featured in Barney’s New York and Japan, Zona in New York City, MOMA New York and San Francisco.
For the next twenty years, Urso’s work would expand and find a home in well respected galleries,and national museums including the Yale UniversityArt Gallery, Walters Art Museum, The Phillips Collection, MOMA New York/Chicago/San Francisco, Museum of Arts and Design (MAD),The Walker Art Museum (his collection accompanied the Frida Kahlo Show on tour) and in Samuel Dorsky Museum and Cooper-Hewitt permanent collections. In 1996 Urso co-founded the Green Cottage in High Falls, New York with his life partner Dennis Nutley, a gifted flower artist and entrepreneur. The store serves as an important destination for many, as well as a floral design studio for Dennis and a workshop for Urso where he can design and collaborate with the vital artistic Hudson Valley community.
In 2009 Urso launched his semi-precious Altered Stone Collection. The work was filled with exquisite stone that took him back to the Italian influences he loved; old encrusted jewels, crudely cut, distinctly medieval, Urso confesses, “I had never really paid attention to stones in the past. The light of the stone, the soul, I see it, I get the intrigue, there’s magic.”
What really caught his eye, and imagination, was the pulverized stone dust at the bottom on the boxes. “It’s history. The stone has been there intact for thousands of years. I can un-earth that.” Again, in order to capture that light he had to create a process that would allow for deconstructing, then recapturing the translucence. “The process takes over - dictates the direction. There are mistakes, rather explorations, that take you somewhere else.” Using 14k “as narrow as cats whisker” he accomplished the suspension, capturing the stone’s soul, thus illuminating both the stone and the wearer.
The responses to Urso’s Altered Stone Collection has been overwhelmingly positive, taking Urso back to his roots; a grandson working in gold, mining the stone for richness, history and light. It joins the Signature Collection and both can be found nationally, internationally, and at the Green Cottage, in High Falls, New York.
Urso has a knack for assembling the perfect mixture of bright color, inlay and crushed stone to painstakingly create this homage to post Victorians. Modern Victorian Collection will be Urso imagining a late summer afternoon day dream - Alexander McQueen heading up river to Olana and turning the Hudson River School on its romantic head. Color. Rock. Tradition. Romance. BLAST.
Inspiration and Background…
David Urso is the grandson of a gold miner, who resettled in Long Island and became a gardener on a larger estate. Growing up on Long Island, Urso preferred the forest and the gardens and the glorious isolation. He was also enchanted with natural color. “I couldn’t get enough of color as a child; coloring books, crayons, paints. Orange. Red. Intense. Neutral. Non-Color Colors. Grays. Organic Texture. Tar. Looking at Glass.”
What makes us perceive that?
Awarded a scholarship to Rhode Island School of Design, but Urso sought inspiration and life experience, instead of the conventional path, he hit the road, working his way across the country financed by gas station jobs. Upon his return east, he enrolled in SUNY New Paltz Metals Program. He was with a particularly talented and eclectic group of artists, and studied under extraordinary teachers, with technical master Kurt Matzdorf who stressed classical technique, and polar opposite Robert Ebendorf who encouraged the use of found objects, ephemera, recycled materials, etc. Urso remembers: “I had no idea what I was getting into… until I got into something that felt right.”
Earning a BFA from SUNY New Paltz Metals Program in 1980, Urso joined fellow artists in New York City - “twisting traditional silversmithing with radical punk.” It was a time of intense marathon learning, working, trial/error-ing. While working as an assistant to goldsmiths, Urso was also inventing. He began sealing organic material in plastic and selling the ‘jewelry’ outside of MOMA alongside other street artists including Jean-Michel Basquiat. Fiorucci spotted the work and picked up Urso’s Seal-A-Meal line.
Encouraged, Urso continued his experimentation with natural organic material. However, he needed to come up with a way to preserve, to stop time. He also was increasingly drawn to the country and felt he needed to get out of the city. Moving to upstate New York allowed him the opportunity to experiment, investigate, and get lost in the texture and colors of the hypnotic Hudson Valley landscape. Urso’s own elaborate garden of herbs, flowers and vegetables drying in the studio became overwhelming. What could be done with this bounty? Urso was enchanted and perplexed.
Inspired by Egyptian, Greek and African artist’s use of nature (and a dash of John Water’s scratch/sniff) Urso worked mindlessly: “I tried not to think, letting the technique take over and the material speak.” He had a mission; “making something precious, that’s not formally precious.” Today David Urso's work is designed to complement each other and present an ensemble based on Urso’s design philosophy and organic approach to Life. Urso’s work maintains its relevance today. It is timeless.