On Saturday, October 9, my husband and I visited the Allentown Art Museum to see a new exhibit and (for me) to participate in an art activity related to it. I wrote a post about it on my personal blog, Sometimes You Get So Confused.
The exhibit was beautiful and the art activity was a lot of fun. Want to know more? Go here and take a look at the post.
Our weather has been chill and pouring rain and clouds and more rain for this weekend. But my husband and I knew what to do – visit the museum. Off we went to the Allentown Art Museum in Allentown, PA, on this date.
Two new exhibits have just opened and both were of interest to me. I’ll do a quick rundown and then show you how I participated myself into an exhibit. Sort of. Kind of. If you stretch the definition…
But I digress. Let’s go.
The first we viewed exhibit is called Roots. It focuses on art or craft made by community artists and what happens when the mainstream art world discovers it and appropriates it or redefines it.
The exhibit contained quilts, furniture, sculpture, beadwork, and imagery. Pieces made by the community artists were shown along with works inspired by or derived from, or in some cases made by the community artists to fit the tastes of the mainstream art world.
Upon entering the room I imediately saw the quilts at the opposite end and I knew right away what I was looking at – Gee’s Bend works.
It’s the first time I was ever able to see a Gee’s Bend quilt in person and I took plenty of time to examine the artworks from the standpoint of how they were put together, to their composition, to just enjoying the look of them.
Coincidentally, not long ago I used the Gee’s Bend quilt community’s works, as well as a set of Allentown rowhouses, as my inspiration for a painting. Look here for the post, and here is the painting:
The accompanying mainstream works were prints made by professionals in conjunction with the original artists. They did not compare to the quilts, hands down.
The rest of the exhibit was equally absorbing. Shaker furniture compared to works of Nakashima and Esherick. Native American works compared to work produced by these same artists for tourists, or, in an interesting extrapolation, designs taken from Native American works and popular motifs of the time and printed on fabric by outside designers.
It was a thought-provoking exhibit and an interesting juxtaposition of items connected in a way we do not often think of them – how one can lead to another and what does that process mean to all involved?
Next we went to this exhibit.
This gallery featured bedcoverings of all kinds and from all over the world, as close as the Allentown area and as far away as Asia. Various time periods from the past were also represented, as were techniques: weaving, printing, embroidery, quilting, and applique stitching.
The exhibit made the point that in the past, especially before the mechanical weaving of cloth was possible, bedcoverings were costly and a family’s wealth could have a significant portion invested in bedcovers and assorted linens and accessories. Take a look:
I was especially taken by this tiny “bedcovering” for a baby, made by a Hmong artist. It’s meant to be a baby carrier (according to the placard long sashes would have been sewed to the top to wrap up and around the baby and secure her to her mother – and I am envisioning my granddaughter in this item, as you can see).
According to the information, the extremely precise and exquisite embroidery and applique pattern was deliberately made to be complicated and elaborate so that evil spirits could not find the baby in all the distractions of the wrapping cloth. Additionally, the pompoms at the head were to make the spirits think the baby was a flower and thus camouflaged she would be left alone.
I found this touching. I resolved that when I next make a garment or item for my granddaughter I will consider these factors in my design. It can’t hurt.
Finally we took a quick trip up to the kids’ area. Since we were at the museum so early, the area had just opened and no kids had arrived yet. We had never been in here since it has always been so busy in the past.
The ramp up into the space has a display of fiber art – Cocoons. There was also a display of felted vegetation-like forms inside the kids’ area. I hear they are having a workshop later on featuring the making of such items. Hmmmm…
What a great spot for kids and families to make art and reflect on what they might have seen in the displays by creating something themselves.
That’s not a man sitting over there, it is a statue. Yes.
On our way out, my husband called me back to look at the…bathrooms. Right. Well, they are a treat. The Mens’ and Ladies’ both feature murals incorporating some of the museum’s well-known works. I saw some friends in each room.
And…here is where I became part of the exhibit myself. Kind of. Look and see if you can find me.
Sure you can! And my husband, too.
Well, that’s it for the visit. I hope to return and take another look at both of these displays this summer.