The Future of Tradition: Weavers of Oaxaca, Mexico Connect Their Future with Their Past


On Thursday, May 10 at 12pm, The Commonwealth Club of California in San Francisco will play host to the Chavez Santiago family of the “famed weaving village of Teotitlan de Valle presents its story of this ancient art form, a family, a culture and preserving a way of life across generations.” The New York Times travel writer Freda Moon included them in her article “36 Hours: Oaxaca, Mexico” in January (they also have a wonderful slideshow that includes some great images of weaving).

Panelists for the Commonwealth Club talk include:

Caracol pattern rug dyed with pecan shells by Federico Chavez Sosa, Master Weaver, Teotitlan del Valle, Oaxaca, Mexico (Via Facebook)

The Chavez Santiago family uses a “combination of traditional patterns and weaving techniques with modern colors and sensibilities.” The family also works to support their local community and the traditional Zapotec culture.  I’m particularly interested in their commitment to using only 100% natural dyes in their work, which seems both forward-thinking and historically accurate.

Doors open at 11:30am, with the program beginning at noon. Tickets are free for Commonwealth Club members and cost $20 for non-members and $7 for students (with valid ID). Tickets can be purchased online here. Hope to see you there!

For a quick taste of the talk, here is a short film featuring Federico Chavez Sosa:

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SFSU Thesis Exhibition: Screenprint, art about the body, etc.

2012 Master of Fine Arts Thesis Exhibition at San Fransisco State University:

April 21, 2012 – May 11, 2012

“The 2012 Master of Fine Arts Thesis exhibition features the work of 9 artists: A. Gaul Culley, Dan Herrera, Nif Hodgson, Paula Moran, Kanako Namura, Billy Ocallaghan, Jordan Perkins-Lewis, Kim Snyder, and Matt Thompson.”

The opening reception will be on April 21st from 1-3pm and the exhibition will also be open during the University’s Commencement, on Saturday May 19.

In scrolling through some of the artists profiles I was struck often by Dan Herrera‘s work and his interest in the body. Of his series “Estan de una Herencia Extraña” he notes “This work centers around the idea of skin, and thinking about skin as a continuous surface in relationship to time and movement. . . . Working in this way, the elasticity of both time and skin can be stretched – revealing curious illustrations of movement.” But it was his series “The Alchemists” which I found both aesthetically pleasing as well as engaging intellectually. An artist statement related to these images was absent from his portfolio, but they almost don’t need one. Enjoy, and for more visit his website.

"Corset" 2004 by Dan Herrera
Creation, 2004 by Dan Herrera


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Costume Society Western Region on the Road!


Join CSA Members and guests this summer for a special private curator-led tour of Colors of the Oasis: Central Asian Ikats at the historic Seattle Asian Art Museum (SAAM) in Seattle, WA on June 14, 2012. The show originated from the Textile Museum in Washington D.C. – a premiere institution – and it’s a unique opportunity for West-coasters to see it without having to travel very far.

Registration forms are due by June 28 – and at the low $30 registration price, tickets are bound to go fast. Hope to see you there!

Download Registration form

*Photo: Young Adult’s Robe, Central Asia, Uzbekistan, Bukhara, 1870s (?), silk warp, cotton weft; warpfaced plain weave, The Textile Museum, 2005.36.144, The Megali Collection, Photo by Renée Comet

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Gaultier at the de Young: Technology, Craft and Art of Fashion

The Fashion World of Jean Paul Gaultier: From the Sidewalk to the Catwalk exhibit at the de Young has been getting a fair amount of media attention since it opened to the public on March 24. Much of the coverage focuses on the technology used for the mannequins, and indeed when I first saw them I was mesmerized – to the point that I forgot to look at the garments on display in the first gallery. I began to get concerned that the distraction of the display techniques would overpower the rest of the show. But, by the end of the first gallery, I had thankfully re-engaged with the content.

The Museum has been organizing large scale events, as well as academic explorations of the exhibition through events including a conversational lecture between Suzy Menkes and the designer; as well as historical perspective by Kimberly Chrisman-Campbell. In Menkes introduction of Gaultier, she takes a moment to clarify that the ‘tricks’ and cleverness often used by designers (both exhibition designers and fashion designers) are not the real value of the exhibition. She points out that the value is really in Gaultier’s focus on “technique, skill and handwork.” She also made sure to draw attention to Gaultier’s ability to capture a moment in time.

Her comments are by no means insignificant, and when speaking on “technique, skill and handwork,”she points out that “if you search, you can find them” –perhaps implying that they weren’t as much of a focus as they should be. While I was certainly drawn in and amazed by the technology -ultimately it was his focus on craft and design (and yes, details) that ultimately kept me engaged.

The exhibit features over 200 utterly captivating objects that I’d put in the category of contemporary art – several of the speakers at the press preview felt that way too. Gaultier’s work is both ‘of the moment’ and contains historical reference and I frequently found myself identifying a particular moment in history: the Madonna cone bra being the obvious iconic element.













I also found historical references in a pair of men’s pants that reminded me of a Charles James ball gown; or the Red-beaded headdress in the shape of a schooner harkening Marie Antoinette; or a pair of women’s trousers with knife-pleates at the bottom which reminded me of some of Dior’s work from the 1950s. For those not able to see the show in person – there is a huge exhibition catalog (and Amazon is selling it at a discount: it’ll save you $50). For those of you who are able to see it (or who saw it in Montreal) – what’s your take on the mannequins?

Please enjoy the brief photo-tour


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Fashion & Textiles on view in California and the West

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I recently received a note from a reader, describing her trouble finding information on upcoming fashion and textile exhibitions on view in California. So, I thought I’d share what I know with readers. Quite a variety of exhibits are available across the western states: exhibitions of film costumes, exhibits using old techniques in new ways (embroidery and knitting), historical design aesthetics (including ‘California’ design and the Aesthetic movement), as well as contemporary body art (tattoos!). Quite the range to choose from. Please feel free to comment if you’ve been to any of these or others you think readers should know about:

20th Annual Art of Motion Picture Costume Design
Through April 28, 2012
The Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising/Museum & Galleries (Los Angeles, CA)

The FIDM Museum is proud to present the twentieth anniversary Art of Motion Picture Costume Design exhibition. Celebrating the art and industry of costume designers, this exhibition will present more than 100 costumes from twenty films released in 2011. The exhibition includes selected costumes from all five 2011 Academy Award® Nominees for Costume Design: W/E, Hugo, Jane Eyre, The Artist, and Anonymous. The exhibition also showcases classic film costumes from the FIDM Museum collection and the Department of Recreation and Parks, City of Los Angeles, Historic Hollywood Collection. Some of these same costumes were featured during the first Art of Motion Picture Costume Design exhibition in 1993.

Common Places: Printing, Embroidery, and the Art of Global Mapping
Through May 13, 2012
Los Angeles County Museum of Art (Los Angeles)

Common Places features three objects from LACMA’s permanent collection which transform printed works on paper into one-of-a-kind embroideries: a seventeenth-century valance, a cigarette silks quilt, and Alighiero Boetti’s Mappa. The resulting textiles articulate contemporary aspects of global phenomena and suggest that far from being a recent development, globalization has deep historical roots that extended into the home and everyday life.

California Design, 1930–1965: “Living in a Modern Way”
Through June 3, 2012
Los Angeles County Museum of Art (Los Angeles)

This exhibition is the first major study of California midcentury modern design. With more than 300 objects—furniture, ceramics, metalwork, fashion and textiles, and industrial and graphic design—the exhibition examines the state’s role in shaping the material culture of the entire country. Organized into four thematic areas, the exhibition aims to elucidate the 1951 quote from émigré Greta Magnusson Grossman that is incorporated into the exhibition’s title: California design “is not a superimposed style, but an answer to present conditions…It has developed out of our own preferences for living in a modern way.”

The Art of the Anatolian Kilim: Highlights from the McCoy Jones Collection
de Young Museum (San Francisco)
Through June 10, 2012

A world-class collection of Anatolian kilims given to the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco by H. McCoy Jones and his wife, Caroline, is showcased in a choice exhibition of two dozen of the finest examples. Presented in the textile arts gallery at the de Young, the Anatolian flat-woven kilims on view, dating from the 15th to the 19th century, include a variety of design types and regional styles, as well as superb examples of artistic and visual prowess. The kilims in the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco’s permanent collection are considered the most important group of Anatolian kilims outside Turkey.

Knitted, Knotted, Twisted & Twined: The Jewelry of Mary Lee Hu
Through  June 17, 2012
Bellevue Arts Museum (Bellevue, WA)

Over the past 40 years, Mary Lee Hu has affirmed her distinctive voice in the world of jewelry with her elegant, voluptuous creations. Using wire the way hand weavers use thread, Hu has blazed a trail as both artist and innovator, exploring the nexus between metalsmithing and textile techniques. Keen to metal’s ability to bend and manipulate light within a textured surface, Hu’s work is a testament to her sophisticated eye for weightless and rhythmic lines, translated into body adornment. Featuring more than 90 exquisite earrings, rings, brooches and neckpieces drawn from public and private collections internationally, this retrospective traces Hu’s evolution from her experimental designs of the 1960s to today’s creations full of light and movement.

The Cult of Beauty: The Victorian Avant-Garde, 1860–1900
Through June 17, 2012
Legion of Honor (San Francisco)

The Cult of Beauty: The Victorian Avant-Garde, 1860–1900 is the first major exhibition to explore the unconventional creativity of the British Aesthetic Movement, tracing the evolution of this movement from a small circle of progressive artists and poets, through the achievements of innovative painters and architects, to its broad impact on fashion and the middle-class home. The superb artworks on view encompass the manifold forms of Victorian material culture: the traditional high art of painting, fashionable trends in architecture and interior decoration, handmade and manufactured furnishings for the “artistic” home, art photography and the new modes of dress.

Order and Border
Through Oct. 21, 2012
Seattle Art Museum (Seattle, WA)

Stripes are a fundamental visual element, appearing naturally in vertical lines as trees and in manmade products of all kinds, from street dividers to ornate fabrics. The stripe is so basic it is rarely given isolated attention. This installation examines how stripes decorate and structure objects, bodies and spaces. It follows the many ways that stripes are formulated—swirling, rigid, ragged, skinny or bold—and shows how they appear in a wide range of media from a multitude of cultures. These objects help us recognize the range of meanings that a stripe holds, from a minor design feature to the sign of a significant mythic journey.

Indelibly Yours: Smith Andersen Editions and the Tattoo Project
de Saisset Museum, Santa Clara University, Santa Clara, CA
February 24 – March 18 and April 13 – July 1, 2012

Featuring work by ten artists—five known for tattoo and five known for printmaking—Indelibly Yours explores the kinship between marking on skin and the practice of drawing on a printing plate.

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At the Sonoma County Museum: 200 Years of Decorative Arts Under the Romanovs

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Notice of this upcoming exhibition appeared in my inbox last week. The Tsars’ Cabinet: Two Hundred Years of Decorative Arts Under the Romanvs was organized by the Muscarelle Museum of Art at the College of William and Mary, and will be on view at the Sonoma County Museum beginning February 25.

The exhibit includes about 160 pieces, much of it by Faberge, including porcelain services, glassware, enamel, silver gilt, and decorated eggs. Many of these are grouped by tsar, which helps to illustrate major social or political trends of each tsars’ reign.

What’s nice is that there is an actual connection between Russian history and Sonoma County: It’s the 200th Anniversary of the establishment of Fort Ross. “Fort Ross was a thriving Russian-American Company settlement from 1812 to 1841. This commercial company chartered by Russia’s tsarist government controlled all Russian exploration, trade and settlement in the North Pacific, and established permanent settlements in Alaska and California.”
As  you’ll see in the notice below, the opening reception is February 25, and includes a $2 discount for anyone who arrives dressed in a Russian-themed costume.
Figures of Hunter, Woman from Kamtchatka, Woman in Coat, Man from Kamtchatka, Samoyed Man, Kabardian Man, Woman in yellow; Tartar from Kazan; Porcelain; c. 1785-1800; Imperial Porcelain Factory, Russia (click for source)
The Tsars’ Cabinet: Two Hundred Years of Decorative Arts Under the Romanovs at the Sonoma County Museum
Opening Reception Saturday, February 25, 5-7pm
Vodka bar, Russian music & food, Museum members are free, $15 admission for non-members
$2 discount for wearing Russian-themed costumes

Click for source

Curator’s Tour of The Tsars’ Cabinet

April 6, 2012, 11:00am-12:00pm
A behind-the-scenes look at creating the Tsars’ Cabinet exhibition. Cost: $4 in addition to regular Museum admission.
Bruce Elliott Lecture on the Romanovs and St. Petersburg
Thursday March 7, 2012, 6:00-7:30pm
Bruce Elliott, professor and lecturer at SRJC will discuss the Romanov dynasty and the construction of St. Petersburg. Cost: $8 Members / $10 Non-Members

Family Day
Saturday March 17, 2012, 11:00am-2:00pm
Activities, hands-on crafts, and decorative arts demonstrations themed on The Tsars’ Cabinet. Free admission for children 12 and under, and free for members of the museum. Regular admission applies for all others.

Steven Bittner Lecture on Russian History and the Aristocracy
Thursday April 12, 2012, 6:00-7:30pm
Steven Bittner, professor of Soviet History at Sonoma State University, will lecture on Russian history from the 18th century to 1917. Cost: $8 Members / $10 Non-Members

For more on the Fort Ross Anniversary celebration, click here.

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FIDM’s 20th Annual Art of Motion Picture Costume Design Exhibition

Opening today is FIDM’s annual Art of Motion Picture Design exhibition, produced in association with the Costume Designers Guild, which exhibits the Academy Award® nominated costume designs. This year’s nominees include:

To prepare for The Artist, Bridges watched Clara Bow in 1927's It and Joan Crawford in 1928's Our Dancing Daughters. The costume designer and director Michel Hazanavicius are also fans of the 1928 Marion Davies film Show People. "It's a slice of life at MGM from that period," says Bridges. (Click for source)
  • Lisy Christl for Anonymous
  • Mark Bridges for The Artist
  • Sandy Powell for Hugo
  • Michael O’Connor for Jane Eyre
  • Arianne Phillips for W.E

The exhibition not only includes the nominted designs, but also presents more than 100 costumes from twenty films released in 2011! Since this year marks the 20th anniversary of the annual exhibition, curators pulled out all the stops and include much more than just this year’s nominees. The exhibition also includes a showcase of classic film costume — including pieces worn by Fred Astaire, Ingrid Bergman, Jean Harlow, Marlene Dietrich and other Hollywood legends.

Can’t wait to see it!


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Levi Strauss & Co: The CSA Tour

A few Sunday’s ago, I had the pleasure of joining a select group of Costume Society of America Western Region members for a behind-the-scenes tour of the Levi Strauss & Co archives in San Francisco.

In the Levi Strauss archives

This was a tour that had been years in the making, and thanks to the generosity of Lynn Downey (the company archivist) and to the organizer (CSA Western President Shelly Foote) the program was a great success.

The weather couldn’t have been more idyllic, and when we arrived at the archives, a beautiful array of clothing from throughout Levi’s history was laid out before us. Ms. Downey had brought out her favorite pieces and generously peppered her talk with contextual information – how each was linked to Western or California history at large, company history, or cultural history. Downey discussed everything from early western work-wear and the origin of the riveted pant, to the company’s foray into Khaki pants, women’s denim wear on dude ranches, to early children’s wear during the baby boom of the 1950s, collaborations (including shirts for the 1939 Worlds Fair and Winchester hunting wear), and clear through to Mod clothing of the 1960s, Leisure suits of the 1970s, the 1980s collector trend in Japan, and up through Christian Siriano’s design for Project Runway.

Some quick-facts to tease you:

  • More from inside the Levi Strauss archives

    Levi Strauss did not have a store in the United States until 1991: they were only wholesale merchants until that point

  • In 1872 a Reno, NV tailor named Jacob Davis suggested that Strauss include rivets on denim pants to make them more sturdy. Although Strauss was not a manufacturer at this time he agreed to patent the design with the tailor. On May 20, 1873 the two gentlemen got the patent to make the first pair of mens riveted work pants.
  • The original name of the 501 jean was “XX”
  • The Levi Strauss archive acquired an 1880s pair of jeans (not the 501) with a ‘rule’ pocket, paying $46,500 after an intense bidding war
  • The oldest known riveted denim jacket (from the 1880s) was found in a ghost town in Southern California (and is now in their collection)

Ms. Downey generously spoke to our group for a little over an hour, and then allowed us to put on gloves and examine everything more closely. She offered to answer any questions we had about Levi myths, ‘things we had heard,’ and even offered to bring out additional items if we wanted.

After a number of questions and lively discussions, our group moved back into the public display area to look at the clothing, artifacts and ephemera on view to the public, which included the company’s recent movie and celebrity tie-ins, as well as a conservation video, and a brief history of the company.

I was thrilled with this unique opportunity to learn more about this historic western company. Happily for CSA Western Region members, a full report will be forthcoming in the next issues of the regional newsletter. Should you want to learn more about Levi’s, Ms. Downey has written a book providing the definitive history of Levi Strauss & Co. I’ve included below some of my photos from the behind-the-scenes tour. Enjoy!

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Interpreting History Through Costume: A CSA Western Region Symposium

I’m so excited to share with readers that the Costume Society of America’s Western Region has just released its registration flyer for the next regional symposium! To be held March 16-18 at the William S. Hart Ranch in Newhall, CA, “Interpreting History Through Costume” will include a wide range of activities and intellectually stimulating paper presentations.

The William S. Hart Ranch

For those unfamiliar, William S. Hart was a silent film star – primarily of cowboy movies and he became an avid collector of western art and artifacts (including costumes). His historic 1910 Ranch House will provide an exciting backdrop to the paper presentations.

This academic symposium includes presentations connecting fashion, history, theatre costume, national costume, gender, re-enactors, and much more (it also includes papers by my good friend and regular Worn Through contributor Brenna Barks, and former Smithsonian curator Shelly Foote). Highlights include:

  • A Comparison of Costumes Worn for Performances of Sheridan’s “The School for Scandal”
  • Fashioning Greek Identity-Representing “Greekness” in the 19th Century
  • Saris to Skirts: Negotiating National Identity through Costume
  • Collecting Japan: The Kimono and Textile Collection at the Clark Center for Japanese Culture
  • Dressing the Part: Mary Pickford’s Use of Costume

Additional activities include tours of the Hart Museum and a special costume display, a screening of the William S. Hart Film Tumbleweeds (1925), social time and opportunities to explore the Ranch (which is home to a heard of American Bison and other animals).

For complete details on the symposium and to register, download the flyer below.

Interpreting History Through Costume

March 16-18


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California Association of Museums conference (in Berkeley!)

The 2012 CAM conference, Museums Making It Happen, will take place February 15-17, 2012 at the Berkeley Doubletree Marina and will feature:
  • Programs led by colleagues from 60 California museums
  • Over 40 educational sessions and workshops focusing on administration, school and public programs, exhibitions, collections, and hot topics
  • Receptions, dinners, and other opportunities to dialogue
  • Maker Stations to tinker, be creative, and experience “making” in action (stations to be announced soon!)

Registration includes: entrance to the general session, concurrent sessions, the Lunchtime Learning Opportunities, and the exhibit hall; two continental breakfasts; the closing reception; and all exhibit hall breaks. All workshops, tours, evening events, and luncheons are additional. See 2012 Schedule for workshop, tour, luncheon, and evening event prices.

The Pre-Registration Deadline is Friday, Janaury 27, 2012.
Highlights (from my point of view) include:
California Indian Basketry Workshop at the Hearst’s Basket & Textile storage facility in Berkeley/Emeryville.

Emerging Professionals Participants will gain an understanding of the kinds of jobs available, trends in the field, and how to land that first paid position.

Play With Your Stuff: Collections and Social Media Join professionals from across the museum spectrum as we brainstorm ideas to promote your collections through social media.

Collections Management Roundtable These informal roundtable discussions will focus on specific topics pertaining to collections management and provide an opportunity to network with (and learn from) colleagues.
The New Magnes: The Vaults Revisited : After nearly a 50 year history as an independent museum, the Judah L. Magnes joined the Bancroft library at the University of California, Berkeley in 2010. In January 2012, The Magnes Collection of Jewish Art and Life reopens in a new facility in the Berkeley arts and culture district.
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