Ubuhle Women: Beadwork and the Art of Independence
The Ruth Funk Center for Textile Arts is pleased to present Ubuhle Women: Beadwork and the Art of Independence, a spectacular overview of a new form of bead art, the ndwango (“cloth”), developed by a community of women living and working together in rural KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. The plain black fabric that serves as a foundation for the Ubuhle women’s exquisite beadwork is reminiscent of the Xhosa headscarves and skirts that many of them wore growing up. By stretching this textile like a canvas, the artists use colored Czech glass beads to transform the flat cloth into a contemporary art form of remarkable visual depth. Using skills handed down through generations, and working in their own unique style “directly from the soul” (in the words of artist Ntombephi Ntobela), the women create abstract as well as figurative subjects for their ndwangos.
Ubuhle means “beauty” in the Xhosa and Zulu languages. It describes the shimmering quality of light on glass and its special spiritual significance for the Xhosa people. From a distance, each panel of the ndwango seems to present a continuous surface; but as the viewer moves closer and each tiny individual bead catches the light, the meticulous skill and labor that went into each work—the sheer scale of ambition—becomes stunningly apparent. A single panel can take more than 10 months to complete.
Ubuhle Women: Beadwork and the Art of Independence was developed by the Smithsonian Anacostia Community Museum, Washington, DC, in cooperation with Curators Bev Gibson, Ubuhle Beads, and James Green, and is organized for tour by International Arts & Artists, Washington, DC. The local presentation of this exhibition is sponsored, in part, by Elizabeth “Becky” Price. Select educational programs generously supported by the Bob and Jan Case Endowment for Student Enrichment.
Images: Zanele Muhloli, Portrait of Ntombephi Ntobela, April 2013. © Zanele Muhloli/Ubuhle Artists; Ntombephi “Induna” Ntobela, Tribute to My Sister Bongiswa, 2010, glass beads sewn onto fabric; Zanele Muhloli, Portrait of Zandile Ntobela, April 2013. © Zanele Muhloli/Ubuhle Artists.
Rooted, Revived, Reinvented: Basketry in America
On view September 21 – December 14, 2019
Rooted, Revived, Reinvented: Basketry in America visually chronicles the history of American basketry from its origins in Native American, European, and African traditions to its contemporary presence in the fine art and craft worlds. The baskets in this exhibition convey meaning and interpret American life through the artists’ choices of materials; the techniques and forms they select; and the colors, designs, patterns, and textures they employ.
Historical baskets were rooted in local landscapes and shaped by cultural traditions. With the increase of mass production brought about by the industrial revolution, basketmakers began to create works for new audiences and markets including tourists and collectors. Today, some contemporary artists seek to maintain and revive traditions performed for centuries. Others combine age-old techniques with nontraditional materials to generate cultural commentary. Still others challenge viewers’ expectations by experimenting with form, materials, scale, and installation.
Divided into four sections – “Cultural Origins,” “Living Traditions,” “Basket as Vessel,” and “Beyond the Basket” – this exhibition of 70 to 75 objects has two primary goals: to model how to look at, talk about, and analyze baskets aesthetically, critically and historically; and to contextualize American basketry within art and craft history specifically and American culture generally.
The exhibition is a collaborative endeavor between the National Basketry Organization and the University of Missouri, curated by Jo Stealey and Kristin Schwain, generously sponsored in part by the National Basketry Organization, University of Missouri, the Windgate Charitable Foundation, the Center for Craft, Creativity, and Design, and numerous private donors.
Images: (from left): Kate Anderson, Lichtenstein Teapot/Girl with Ribbon, 2005. Waxed linen thread, stainless steel; Charissa Brock, Adagio, 2013. Tiger bamboo, waxed linen thread. Photos courtesy of the National Basketry Organization.
Forced to Flee presented by Studio Art Quilt Associates
May 25 – August 24, 2019
The Ruth Funk Center for Textile Arts at Florida Tech and Studio Art Quilt Associates (SAQA) premiere Forced to Flee. This powerful exhibition features 36 quilts tackling subjects ranging from human conflict to natural disasters. Art quilts have long challenged the notion that quilting is a “comfortable” art form, and in keeping with this idea, Forced to Flee asked participating artists to address an important and timely subject - the global refugee crisis.
Throughout history people have been forced to flee from their homes for their own safety and survival due to war, oppression, natural disasters, and atrocious human rights violations. The 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees was adopted to address the increasingly growing numbers of people needing protection with the understanding that effective solutions would require international co-operation. That Convention document continues to influence the measures used today to attempt to address the global challenges arising from the current refugee crisis impacting countries across the globe.
Artists were encouraged to illustrate these issues, including their impact on families and communities, the stress placed on host countries, and the need for new initiatives, funding, and international cooperation to find solutions.
Images (from left): Eunhee Lee (South Korea) They Are Also Us. Photo courtesy of the artist; Karin Täuber (USA), Life Jacket Graveyard of Lesvos, 2018. Photo courtesy of the artist; Diane E. Wespiser (USA), Wanted - A Home, 2018. Photo by Robert Wespiser.
Tanja Boukal: Knitting and Embroidery Gone Rogue
May 25 – August 24, 2019
In conjunction with the art quilt exhibition Forced to Flee, the Ruth Funk Center for Textile Arts at Florida Tech presents over seventy-five embroideries and stitched works by Austrian artist and activist Tanja Boukal. Boukal’s art examines socio-political themes, often exposing the challenges of marginalized people in the midst of difficult situations. The artist states, “My starting point is the human dignity. I often place extraordinary people at the center of my works. I do not want to depict them as individual characters, but rather as representatives of people, who are willing to walk long distances to achieve their goals. I give ‘curtain calls’ to people who usually stay out of sight.”
In the Unfinished Series, Boukal examines the development of the Egyptian revolution. Beginning with the “Day of Revolt” on January 25, 2011, this revolution represents one of the most important movements of the “Arabic spring.” The work is centered on the role of women in Egypt’s revolution. Through handcrafted and vivid embroideries on canvas, the artist explores women’s rights, sexual violence, and the public space. Boukal transcribes the photographic originals using a technique based on the satin stitch technique. By visually highlighting particular women, she emphasizes their important role in Egypt’s progress toward a democracy – a process which is far from over.
In addition, the Center will feature several works from the Those in Darkness Drop from Sight Series. These compositions - crafted through the intricate technique of illusion or “shadow” knitting - feature notorious women from around the world who play an active role in armed conflicts. The artist examines their representations in society as fighters, heroes, victims and villains.
Images: Tanja Boukal, Unfinished (Series), 2012 - 2013. Embroidery on canvas. Photos courtesy of Bernice Steinbaum Gallery.
Designed to Mobilize: Propaganda Kimono 1920 - 1945
January 26 – May 4, 2019
Now Available: Explore this exhibition’s virtual tour! The Center has partnered with Florida Tech’s Digital Scholarship Lab to provide a unique immersive experience.
Curated almost exclusively from the Center’s permanent collection, this exhibition presents kimono and associated textiles from one of the most distinctive periods of textile production in Japanese history.
The beginning of the 20th century was a time of momentous change in Japanese society. Successes in early military conflicts fueled economic development and a focus on expansionist ideals. By the end of World War I (1914-1918), the country’s focus on establishing its placement as a modern world leader led to a dedicated emphasis on the development of technology and design.
This exhibition will feature over 75 historic textiles and focus on the iconography, motifs, and metaphors displayed in objects manufactured as propaganda during the World War II era - also known as the Asia-Pacific War (1931 – 1945). Produced within a nation primed to advance its cultural identity on the world stage, textiles provide an important lens for understanding the role of consumerism, coercion and fashion during a remarkable and controversial period of transition.
Designed to Mobilize is made possible through the generous contribution of Erik Jacobsen to the permanent collection of the Ruth Funk Center for Textile Arts at Florida Institute of Technology. This exhibition is presented with select research conducted by Dr. Rhiannon Paget, Curator of Asian Art at the John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art, Florida State University. Additional scholarship provided by Dr. Jacqueline M. Atkins.
Wandering Spirit: African Wax Prints
September 1 – December 15, 2018
This exhibition is a tribute to the century-old handmade designs and patterns on textiles that originated in Indonesia and were copied and industrialized by Europeans and exported to Africa. Wandering Spirit traces the developmental pathway of the African wax print and tells how these fabrics reflect the stories, dreams, and personalities of the people who wear them.
Batik is a Javanese word that refers to a traditional technique of wax-resist dyeing, in which a pattern is made on both sides of cotton fabric with warm liquid wax applied by a tjanting, a small brass cup with a spout. After the wax cools and solidifies, the cloth is dyed with a primary color and the wax is then removed, revealing the pattern where the wax had once been.
The success of the wax prints on the African scene is driven by many factors, such as the culture, taste, and desires of the African consumers. Clothing in Africa serves an important means of communication, sending secret messages and retelling local proverbs. Clothing also depicts a person’s social status and position, political convictions, ambition, marital status, ethnicity, age, sex, and group affiliations. The names and stories associated with the fabrics differ from country to country and region to region. One fabric may have different names in different countries, depending on the symbolism that the consumer can read in the fabric.
The history of the African wax print is a history paved along colonial trade routes and globalization in the post-colonial era. Though not originally African, these textiles have become ingrained in African culture and society, and loved and identified as their own.
A program of Exhibits USA, a national division of Mid-America Arts Alliance and The National Endowment for the Arts. Supplemental exhibition curated by Dr. Gifty Benson and organized by The African Hospitals Foundation, Tulsa, OK.
Select programming made possible by a grant from the Community Foundation for Brevard.
Maggy Rozycki Hiltner: Not Quite Sew
May 19 - August 11, 2018
At first glance, Maggy Rozycki Hiltner’s idealized embroideries – hand-stitched from the salvaged and recycled materials she collects – invoke themes of nostalgia and whimsy. Closer inspection reveals more subversive connotations which explore the artist’s personal and universal critiques of gender, family and intimacy. Sometimes it’s a malicious undertone to the relationships, or a lack of self-control on the part of the characters, or maybe an “otherworldliness” hidden in the everyday.
Fabric and stitching are familiar to most people: a comfortable and innocuous medium. The discarded household goods Hiltner uses have a history of some other person’s place, actions and time. She often finds these trivial decorations to be ominously full of double meanings. Visually, her compositions are characterized by carefully planned, neat stitches in contrast with kinetic, abrupt lines to move the narrative and give voice to the characters.
Hiltner’s work has been featured in art museums and galleries nationwide including Missoula Art Museum, the Urban Institute for Contemporary Art, San Jose Museum of Quilts and Textiles, and The Textile Museum in Washington D.C. She has been showcased in numerous publications including American Craft, FiberArts and Interview magazines and was a recipient of a National Endowment for the Arts’ Artist’s Innovation Award for the state of Montana.
The Ruth Funk Center is pleased to present Hiltner’s embroidered textiles in conjunction with the traveling exhibition Apron Strings: Ties to the Past.
Apron Strings: Ties to the Past
May 19 – August 11, 2018
Although taken for granted by many social and art historians, the apron is the subject of a fascinating reevaluation in this exhibition. Apron Strings: Ties to the Past features fifty-one vintage and contemporary examples that review the apron’s role as an emotionally charged vehicle for expression with a rich and varied craft history that is still viable today.
Using aprons dating from the turn of the 20th century through the present, the exhibition chronicles changing attitudes toward women and domestic work. It also surveys the wide range of design and craft techniques apron-makers have used to express themselves, while still working within creative venues traditionally available to women. Today, artists continue using aprons to explore cultural myths and realities as well as their individual experiences with American domesticity.
Apron Strings is organized into several thematic groups addressing design, historical context, use, and cultural message. The exhibition serves as an excellent tool to bring together diverse parts of the community through shared experiences with, and memories of, a common, everyday textile.
A program of Exhibits USA, a national division of Mid-America Arts Alliance and The National Endowment for the Arts.
January 27 - April 28, 2018
Coded Couture presents garments, video projections, objects, drawings, photographs, and interactive elements by 10 national and international designers. The featured designers each use coding to convert a consumer’s personal information into a custom garment. This traveling exhibition was curated by c2, a curatorial partnership between Ginger Gregg Duggan and Judith Hoos Fox, and organized by Pratt Manhattan Gallery, New York.
Cloth as Community: Hmong Textiles in America
September 23 - December 16, 2017
Hmong flower cloth (or paj ntaub) is one of the world’s great textile traditions and an excellent example of cloth as community. Despite its deep roots in Hmong culture, this complex art was not widely known outside Asia until after the Vietnam War, when Hmong refugees arrived in the United States. The works illustrate the profound relevance of textiles as infrastructure in the Hmong culture, an art form that shifted as it adapted to fit new realities. The exhibition features 28 textiles—flower cloths and embroidered story cloths—by those in the Hmong community.
Organized and toured by ExhibitsUSA, a national part of Mid-America Arts Alliance, the exhibition was first curated in 1999 by Carl Magnuson, a cultural anthropologist, working with a Hmong refugee community. Curatorial updates have been done by Geraldine Craig, who has published more than a hundred essays on contemporary art and Hmong textiles, in venues such as the Hmong Studies Journal, The Journal of Modern Craft, Art in America, and Surface Design Journal.
Cloth as Community is a program of ExhibitsUSA, a national division of Mid-America Arts Alliance and The National Endowment for the Arts.
Flora & Fiber
May 20 - August 26, 2017
This exhibition, curated from the Center’s permanent collection, explores the use and depiction of flowers and foliage in fiber art. From their ability to visually inspire iconography to their use as raw material for hand-weaving and dyeing, plants have a unique relationship to the creation and adornment of textiles across the globe.
As society advanced toward the modern age, art and design in the Americas and Europe was overwhelmingly influenced by the export of goods, materials and aesthetics from Central, East and South Asia. Lands to the east of Europe served as a source of significant inspiration. Artistic use of floral motifs and materials continue weaving techniques and traditions still practiced by skilled artisans today.
Flora and Fiber presents the botanical sources, application and iconography in textiles from three continents, highlighting Asian textiles’ profound and enduring influence on the development of modern fashion and design.
This exhibition is supported, in part, by the John K. and Julia R. Roach Fund of the Community Foundation for Brevard.
Traditional Arts of the Bedouin
January 28 – April 29, 2017
The Saudi Arabian Bedouin, or the Bedu, are iconic nomads of the Middle East. Immortalized in films such as Lawrence of Arabia, Arabian Bedouin have captured the imagination of the Western world since their first contact with Europeans during Napoleon's conquest of Egypt in the 18th century. This romantic myth of the Bedu wanderer, who wears flowing robes while riding a camel in search of food and water in the desert, is far from accurate. Bedouin people are diverse, skilled craftspeople, dedicated to family, hospitality, and honor. This exhibition focuses on aspects of traditional Bedouin life that survive today: home and family life, clothing and jewelry, and the importance of one's herds to survival and prosperity.
Visitors to the exhibition will learn how Bedouin arts and crafts frequently bridge the gap between aesthetic and utilitarian purposes, as well as recognize the unique tenacity of Bedouin traditions in an ever-changing political, social, and environmental landscape.
Traditional Arts of the Bedouin reveals the Bedouin to be artists with a legacy of incredible work, not widely known outside their own cultures. The featured jewelry shows each artist’s use of obscure techniques, such as crenellation, to produce intricate pieces. Bedouin weaving, still crafted on a stick loom, demonstrates ancient knowledge of natural dyes and fibers, and traditional patterns; while the women who create textiles use native stitches, not known outside the Bedouin world, to embroider meaning into the objects.
The exhibition, curated by Dr. Amber Clifford-Napoleone of the University Museum at the University of Central Missouri, includes approximately fifty-three artworks and artifacts, from elaborately embroidered textiles and embellished metalwork to ceremonial coffee accouterments and incense burners; as well as several photographs depicting Bedouin craftspersons at work.
A program of ExhibitsUSA, a national division of Mid-America Arts Alliance and The National Endowment for the Arts.