Today, from our new friends at Arts.Black, we bring you an interview with Detroit-based metalsmith artist Tiff Massey by Taylor Renee Aldridge. They discussed “socio-politics in Detroit, ’80s bling, and Massey’s rigorous art practice.” Massey speaks of symbolism and color in her work, explaining “I keep going back and forth to the use of the mirror, the cameo, this oval shape [points to massive rings on her fingers], and these distortions within the reflections which are ongoing themes with how the audience is included in the work. There’s this distortion of history, distortions of Blackness.” This article was originally published on May 19, 2016.
Tiff Massey, a Detroit-based metalsmith artist, has been a pioneering figure in Detroit’s contemporary arts community in recent years. Massey, one of the few, if not only Black female metalsmith artists in the city, was awarded the Kresge Visual Artist Fellowship in 2015. In the same year, she garnered the support of the Knight Foundation to implement a one-month residency program for national and international metalsmith artists, and is now gathering matching funds to make this a reality in the city. A Cranbrook Academy Alum, and Detroiter, born and bred, she is known for creating metal work—hand, and neck jewelry—reminiscent of the large gold jewelry hip hop artists used to wear in the 1980’s. She also creates large-scale public installations, that you can find throughout the city.
My first interaction with Massey was not necessarily a warm one. Similar to the hard dark exterior metal pieces she creates, Massey is stoic and hardly affable unless she considers you a close acquaintance. She and I met shortly after I moved back to Detroit in 2014. I came back aware of all of the disparities and appropriating happening in the city, but unable to speak first hand to the things that had happened while I was away for several years. Massey, along with other artists who have stayed in Detroit, have watched people come and go over the past several years to use the “new Detroit” brand to their benefit, much to the exclusion of the greater Detroit (arts) community.