An accomplished poet as well as an immensely inventive enamellist, Aaron Decker creates wearable forms that are both personally referential and resoundingly universal. Much of the layered imagery in his work has to do with childhood memories – some pleasant and reassuring, others, darker and more foreboding. Raised in a military family, he moved frequently while growing up and came out to his family when he was 16. As the gay son of military father, he grew up an outsider, developing deeply ambivalent feelings about the US military and its aggressive ideals. Many of the allusions in his work (medals, planes, camouflage, etc.) reference this military context and reflect Decker’s astute critical stance.

Decker spent much of his childhood in Alaska and Maine. He attended the University of Southern Maine for three years (2007-2010), studying writing. While there, his beloved grandfather, a highly skilled craftsman who specialized in clocks and watch repairs, passed away. To honor him, Decker enrolled in a jewelry class at the Maine College of Art with Sharon Portelance who became a mentor and encouraged Decker to pursue his interest in metals and enameling. He studied at MECA for two Years (2010-2012) earning a BFA in 2012. After graduating he worked in Portland for the goldsmith Patty Daunis. Later in 2012 he received a Windgate Fellowship which allowed him to travel abroad to Estonia, Portugal and the Czech Republic. He returned to Maine with a deeper commitment to his field. He subsequently met Iris Eichenberg who encouraged him to apply to the graduate program at Cranbrook. He did and was awarded his MFA there in 2015. Following his studies at Cranbrook he received a prestigious Mercedes Benz award allowing him to spend the summer in Berlin. Upon his return to the US he settled outside Detroit where he works for the Shinola Company and maintains an independent studio practice.

Artist Statement

For ‘it’s (not) all fun and games

Enameled grimaces, floppy fish, and medieval maces clip together assembling necklaces, brooches, and lockets in the newest works by Aaron Patrick Decker in it’s (not) all fun and games. A body of work inspired by difficult experiences growing up queer in a military household, Decker skillfully sources and recontextualizes those memories into jewelry. Each piece its own micro narrative with titles such as mace face, cut my teeth, and luke, a flying fish, these new enamels combine a deep curiosity for the material and its history in military medals and regalia with the fascination of toys and play to make pieces that come apart, and reconfigure into an array of different wearable possibilities. Referencing my developmental experiences as a child raised in military bases and how the camouflage incumbent on queer youth in these contexts parallels other forms of camouflage assumed by structures of power and privilege. As worn objects, jewelry pieces are assemblages – unions of materials, symbols, and memories. My work explores jewelry as an interplay of component parts through specific formats: Demi-Parures, lockets, and toys combined with bomb like figurines. Like people, they are each combination of smaller selves that reconfigure over time, changing with the wearer. Sometimes a necklace, sometimes a keychain or brooch, these pieces struggle with themselves, like we all do.

A person who creates paintings or drawings as a profession or hobby.