Nicole Buchanan

I made these pieces as part of a larger body of work called "For the Love Of..."

It was my senior thesis exhibition on the physical embodiment of care and humanity in memorial jewelry. COVID started during the second semester of my junior year of college, so the most important and most stressful years of college happened during the pandemic with zero support from the useless and uncaring school (and government) administration. Memorial jewelry was a subject that I knew I wanted to use for my senior thesis before COVID even began but it ended up being fitting considering how much there has been to mourn for people, time, and experiences lost. The death, pain, stress, and heartache that has happened since it began is immeasurable but still, everyone perseveres and holds out hope that it'll pass.

Now with the vaccines and boosters we may be seeing a bit of light on the horizon. And with the strikes and laborers demanding pay, benefits, and working conditions that they deserve maybe we can fight the late-stage capitalism that plagues us as well. Memorial jewelry preserves memories while looking for hope and closure, embodying our strongest emotions whether it is the feeling of loss in a locket, forever carrying the memory of a loved one next to your heart or the joy and love in a wedding band, a promise of connection and care.

The "Heirloom" painting series depicts a ring being passed through three generations of wearers.

In the painting, "Self Portrait," I used myself to depict a full parure mourning set.

Memorial jewelry is often full of symbolism conveyed through materials and imagery, pearls were originally a symbol of the loss of a child. I experienced a lot of trauma as a child and mourn a little that the young Me didn't really get to have a childhood and couldn't be open with her identity. This isn't something anyone would know by looking at this painting and I didn't go into creating it with this as the intent but as the painting came to life it more and more apparent. Introspection has been a major part of the pandemic for me, I've learned so much about myself that I don't think I would have ever known if I hadn't been forced into isolation with myself and it influenced my work a lot.


The "Vanitas Painting" uses symbols from classic vanitas paintings and from memorial jewelry together to create a scene that plays with the balance of life and death. The skull "wears" the jewelry, wine for indulgence, a candle that burns brightly until it is extinguished, and a bromeliad that is dying from the moment it blooms.