Kurt Pio’s work has been described as abstract, sculptural and moody. As a native of Cape Town, South African artist Kurt Pio was destined to work with diamonds. After stints in decor, publishing, and millinery, he traveled to Amsterdam in 2010 to complete an artist in residency. While there, he began exploring objects from his homeland, and diamonds became the perfect subject for his work. The inspiration for his gem art came at an interesting time. The world was just heading out of the financial crisis, and some of his friends thought the topic was a bit too showy for current times, but Kurt viewed diamonds differently.
It took a full year to finish his first series of four paintings; he kept starting and stopping, but always came back to them. He knew he was onto something when, during a separate photoshoot at his gallery, an international magazine saw a glimpse of this work and was thrilled by it. Soon after in 2014, came his first international exhibition in Antwerp, Belgium.
Kurt has always been fascinated with shapes. The angular facets and play of light in diamonds called for shaped canvases. He experimented with creating a canvas that could fit concave and convex shapes. Laser-cut wood helped him break the mold. Once he was able to expand from medium to medium, Kurt wanted to focus on the relationships surrounding jewelry. He felt the act of giving someone a diamond was an exchange of emotions and love. Out of this concept came the idea to create large installation pieces that together made the iconic diamond & emerald necklace Richard Burton gave Elizabeth Taylor. The exhibition titled “You Caught My Eye” is currently located at Gallery Orange in New Orleans (the exclusive home of his original work in the U.S.). Although his work “pops” through our screens on Instagram, Kurt’s work is best viewed in-person. Only there can the viewer truly experience the exaggerated scale and “feel” the mood his gem art evokes.
An artist of the times, this sculptor and painter creates eco-centric gem art that reveals the many forms of the diamond. S.P. Harper’s grandfather was a diamantaire, or diamond cutter, but it was not until later in life when she realized how she could pay homage to his life’s work. She attended prestigious art schools from Paris to L.A., then headed to New York City in the ’80s to find work that was meaningful to her. During this “exploratory decade” of her life, she spent time at Studio54, the Mud Club and other Manhattan haunts that shaped her creativity and outlook on life.
Upon moving back to California, she started a family and began to discover her mission in life: pursuing her passion while saving the planet. Harper says that her time spent scouring estate sales for decor that would match her family home led her to upcycling, or transforming “waste” into something more desirable and usable. In addition to oil and acrylics, S.P. began using commonplace items such as handkerchiefs, milk crates, table cloths, bedspreads, sheets, metal, wood, shower curtains, and even prom dresses to transform into gemstone art pieces. Many of her pieces even include real diamond dust, another nod to her diamantaire grandfather’s work grinding down natural diamonds to reveal their beauty.
From her studies on the shape, cut, light return, fluorescence and phosphorescence of diamonds, S.P. Harper has created a fully encompassing body of work that strikes a chord inside of diamond lovers everywhere. Her work is represented by Cool Art House, an artist-centric gallery on the west coast.
No story on gemstone painters would be complete without including photo-realistic diamond artist, Angie Crabtree. A classically trained artist, she is a graduate of the prestigious San Francisco Art Institute. Using the same materials as the “old masters,” her medium is oil on canvas, with gold leaf often included in her pieces.
In the early years, she was enamored with kaleidoscopes and their almost hypnotic power. Angie began painting diamonds during an exhibition focused on “luxurious items” entitled “Living The Dream” where she painted a single stone over 5 feet in size. The piece was the hit of the show, and she began to research diamonds more and more. Studying everything from their shapes to their representation of the American dream, Angie created several series of paintings focused on diamonds: zoomed-in facets; classic shapes; antique cuts; natural fancy colors; and more.
Angie’s latest series focuses on gemstones and features 24k gold leaf, a material that harkens back to her origins with luxury objects. Throughout the years, Angie has been commissioned by Chopard, Signet Jewelers, Stephen Silver, Forevermark, and has painted many iconic fancy color diamonds from the famed Argyle Mine in Australia. Last summer, she opened her very own exhibition in LA where she debuted an 8-foot painting of the Argyle Alpha, the largest Vivid-Pink diamond on record at 3.14 carats. Although her original work is in high demand, Angie has offered limited edition prints and collectible objects featuring her iconic gem art. Currently, she is working on a series exploring her original focus on the meaning of luxury means and materialism.