Life in KC

Fine art meets tattoos in this handcrafted jewelry

Much of Cheryl Eve Acosta’s jewelry is inspired by biology, nature and the cycles of life. Here she models a collar and ring she created.
Much of Cheryl Eve Acosta’s jewelry is inspired by biology, nature and the cycles of life. Here she models a collar and ring she created.

Cheryl Eve Acosta is drawn to the “intimacy” of tattoos. She says she likes “the personal touch. It’s so intimate, not just physically but personally — the meaning behind it.”

Acosta is a metalsmith with a gallery and shop in the Crossroads Arts District who specializes in wearable art — that is, art that can be displayed on a shelf or worn.

During Kansas City Fashion Week in October, she launched a line of metal tattoos she calls Tattuage. She says they’re just as intimate as real tattoos, but more playful because they’re removable and rewearable.

The brass shapes stick to the skin with makeup adhesive. Acosta, a native of Puerto Rico, also designed some that can be worn on a chain as a pendant.

The artist, who completed her undergraduate work in New Mexico, conceived of Tattuage years ago during her time in the desert. As she photographed the sharp shadows cast by native plants in the desert sun, she caught those shadows on skin and interpreted them as ephemeral tattoos. She immediately wanted to re-create them with metal.

Acosta has long thought of the body as a “site of display.” She says that even as a small child dressing up in jewelry and fancy clothing, she was aware of herself as a “vessel of expression.”

But she found that jewelry, in its traditional form, limited the range of that expression.

So, without really meaning to — “I’m just doing what I do” — she has been redefining jewelry for years. Mostly using copper and silver, she welds, hammers and pours metal into shapes she considers representative of the cycle of life.

“Ironically, I went through the cycle in reverse: from bones to decay to birth,” she says, referring to the phases of her work.

The first phase, bones, was very minimalist and inspired by the desert. This line is defined by thin, almost skeletal silver structures.

The second phase, decay, took hold during her time in graduate school in Rhode Island, where she struggled, and largely failed, to understand the local people and environs. In her work the decay is characterized by dark colors and fragile, membrane-like structures.

She explains, “I was the coral, so it was a metaphor for surviving in my environment in this industrial, cold setting. My jewelry reflected that fragility and that darkness and that network membrane of wanting to connect and not being able to because it was foreign and different to me.”

Acosta’s third phase, birth, began in Kansas City, which she has called home for nearly seven years. She signifies life by baking a wide range of colorful glazes onto the metal.

Aside from her hammer and blowtorch, she also employs more high-tech methods, such as “growing” copper on fabric in intricate patterns using a chemical solution and specially arranged circuitry.

She crafted one of her favorite pieces, “Healing,” with the technique: a coral-like white collar edged with metal that, when worn around her neck, reaches as high as her ears — think 16th-century Catherine de’ Medici.

The artist, who began her education as a pre-med student, cherishes a continuing interest in biology that’s always reflected in her collections. Her newest line, Ciclos, or “the cycle continues,” is represented by crescents, feathers and spirals. The edges of most pieces have a rough, shell-like texture.

While the pieces in Ciclos aren’t as expansive as others, they do make themselves heard (in the jangle of the stacked bangles or cuffs) or felt (in the weight of the long, silver feathers). That’s part of the physical engagement she’s interested in cultivating.

“You become very aware and conscious of your body and your surroundings,” she says of wearing her art.

Her fine art is available at or by visiting her Cheryl Eve Acosta storefront at 217 W. 19th Terrace on First Friday during regular business hours.

For the December First Friday, Acosta’s reception will be at Brandon Jacobs Gallery at 2015 Grand Blvd. Brandon Jacobs is hosting a special free event with a DJ to celebrate the new Tattuage line, which will be the only pieces on display.

Contact Anne at

Tattuage celebration

First Friday artist reception. 5-9 p.m. Brandon Jacobs Gallery, 2015 Grand Blvd.

Gallery listings

18th and Vine Jazz District

What: First Friday with music, art, dancing, storytelling and more. 4-9 p.m. Dec. 2. Free.

Info: Paseo Boulevard to Woodland Avenue., 816-474-8463

Blue Gallery

What: “Majestic State” by Kollabs (Anke Schofield and Luis Garcia Nerey). Through Dec. 31.

Gallery hours: 10 a.m.-9 p.m. First Friday, 10 a.m.-5:30 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday.

Info: 118 Southwest Blvd., 816-527-0823

Buttonwood Art Space

What: “Vibrant.” Opening reception, 5-9 p.m. Dec. 2; runs through Jan. 27.

Gallery hours: 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday-Friday.

Info: 3013 Main., 816-285-9040

Hilliard Gallery

What: “Cautionary Tales” by Jim Norris. Through Dec. 23.

Gallery hours: 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Tuesday-Friday, noon-4 p.m. Saturday.

Info: 1820 McGee., 816-561-2956

Jones Gallery

What: “Paintings by LauraLi Imel and Phil Schmidt.” First Friday show, 10 a.m.-9 p.m. Dec. 2; runs through Dec. 30.

Gallery hours: 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Monday-Thursday and Saturday, 10 a.m.-8 p.m. Friday.

Info: 1717 Walnut. 816-421-2111

Keller Williams Skyline Realty & Gallery

What: Art in the Loop Video Screening. 6-8 p.m. Dec. 2.

Info: 1724 Main.

KCAI Crossroads Gallery

What: “Replications: Molds & Meaning.” Through Dec. 2.

Gallery hours: 6-8 p.m. First Friday, noon-5 p.m. Tuesday-Friday.

Info: 1819 Grand., 816-914-5394

Kemper at the Crossroads

What: 2016 Charlotte Street Visual Artist Awards Exhibition by Shawn Bitters, Madeline Gallucci and Rodolfo Marron III. Through Jan. 7.

Gallery hours: 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Wednesday-Thursday, 10 a.m.-9 p.m. Friday, noon-4 p.m. Saturday.

Info: 33 W. 19th., 816-753-5784

Leedy-Voulkos Art Center

What: Diane Henk solo exhibition. Runs Dec. 2-Jan.6. Also, “Look Again” by Marshall Maude (through Dec. 30), “Hand-Rubbed” by Josie Mai (through Dec. 30), “Handcrafted Holiday” (through Jan. 7).

Gallery hours: 6-9 p.m. First Friday, 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Thursday-Saturday.

Info: 2012 Baltimore., 816-474-1919

Michael Molick Studio and Gallery

What: Tenth Anniversary First Friday. 5-10 p.m. Dec. 2.

Info: 115 W. 18th. 708-476-1865

MLB Designs

What: “Full Circle” by Jason Pollen. Through Jan. 3.

Gallery hours: 10 a.m.-9 p.m. First Friday, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday-Friday, 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturday.

Info: 2020 Baltimore., 816-531-3133

Sherry Leedy Contemporary Art

What: “Stop the Violence” by Francois Robert, “Transformed” by Art Miller, “The Cave” by Ky Anderson. Through Dec. 17.

Gallery hours: 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday. 2004 Baltimore., 816-221-2626

Studios Inc. Exhibition Space

What: “The Artist Statement” group show. Opening reception, 5-9 p.m. Dec. 2; runs through Jan. 27. Also, “ReModel” by Miles Neidinger (through Dec. 16).

Gallery hours: 10 a.m.-noon and 1-4 p.m. Tuesday-Friday, noon-4 p.m. Saturday.

Info: 1708 Campbell., 816-994-7134

Weinberger Fine Art

What: “The Winter Collective | Works on Paper” group show. Through Jan. 7.

Gallery hours: 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Tuesday-Friday, noon-5 p.m. Saturday.

Info: 114 Southwest Blvd., 816-301-4428

Dan Kelly,