Critic's Choice

Critic’s Choice a series of pencil sharpeners as a criticism of art criticism

Critic’s Choice is a series of three pencil sharpeners as a commentary about art criticism.

Each pencil sharpener sculpture is made from a different materials which is part of the commentary. This group of sculptures was initially inspired by an article in Metalsmith Magazine written by Charles E. Licka about Gary Griffin’s metalwork. I had long admired the jewelry and metalwork by Gary Griffin, but thought the article did very little to communicate the meaning behind the work.

DIMENSIONS of each pencil sharpener (approximately):  7.5" height x 6" width x 3" depth

A larger photo of each pencil sharpener is below.


Metalgrammatic pencil sharpener sculpture about art criticism

'Metalgrammatic' is a lead construction with steel pencil sharpener blades taken from a real pencil sharpener. Sterling silver shavings and word fragments lay below.

The construction of Metalgrammatic from lead broke every metalsmithing rule. Lead is a forbidden material in a traditional silversmithing/metalsmithing studio. Fear of cross contamination is one of many concerns. Compared to sterling silver or gold in has no intrinsic value and may even be the lowest value of all materials.

Word fragments and sterling silver look like pencil shavings. All this a commentary about art criticism that uses words to sound smart and intellectual rather than effectively communicate with the reader.


Didactic pencil sharpener sculpture about art criticism

'Didactic' is the second pencil sharpener with a abstract de-contructed profile. The blades are a sculptural interpretation of pencil sharpening blades. The most important part of this pencil sharpener are the words taken directly from the Metalsmith Magazine article “Ornamental Polariities.”

The sterling silver words are arranged in a didactic manner as if this were an appliance catalog. Look at the bottom of this page for an example.

Lettering (left to right going clockwise around the pencil sharperner) were taken directly from an article in Metalsmith Magazine, Fall 1985 written by C.E. Licka
       geometric configurations
       resonant with oblique social implications
       references to an entropic paradigm
       representational elements
       rationalized and idealized forms

Sterling silver footnote (at the bottom of the pencil sharpener): 
C.E. Licka, "Ornamental Polarities", Metalsmith, Fall 1985


Critic’s Choice Polysyllabic

Polysyllabic is the most beautiful of the three pencil sharpeners about art criticism. Beautiful in the sense of a standard expectation for refinement. The brass construction is nickel painted or plated.

The sterling silver helicoid blade has stamped lettering with another quote from the article “Ornamental Polarities.” The shape of the blade is a sculptural metaphor for how the pencil sharpener blades circulate around the pencil when it is being sharpened.

The pencils in front say Critic’s Choice the name of this artwork, and always displayed with the three pencil sharpeners.


These pencil sharpeners titled Critic’s Choice were included in the book Manufractured: The Conspicuous Transformation of Everyday Objects by Mara Holt Skov and Steven Skov Holt. An entire chapter of the book features my work. CLICK on the book title or image to see more information.



The series of three pencils sharpeners are exhibited or sold as one sculpture work.
This sculpture is available for purchase or exhibition. 
Retail Price: $12,000
Photo Credit for all images: Philip Cohen

 © Harriete Estel Berman, 1986