BIG Personal Slam. BIG Exhibition. BIG Museum. BIG Thoughts.

Incredible exhibition at The Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto, known affectionately to Canadians as the ROM, goes BIG with Fashion and Textiles!!!!!

Until Fall 2013

In the Patricia Harris Gallery of Textiles and Costume, Level 4

 

Yves Saint Laurent 2004 Evening dress and shawl Emphasis on 400 years of design imagery: 18th-19th century Imperial Chinese dragon robes and 1920s modern tailored Shanghai cheongsam and Yves iconic Fall/Winter 1977 Chinese collection informed the design  

Yves Saint Laurent

2004

Evening dress and shawl

Emphasis on 400 years of design imagery: 18th-19th century Imperial Chinese dragon robes and 1920s modern tailored Shanghai cheongsam and Yves iconic Fall/Winter 1977 Chinese collection informed the design

 

This wide-ranging ROM textile exhibition, curated by Alexandra Palmer, showcases in a unique way textiles that are each in their own remarkable way BIG… BIG in size, BIG in historical importance, BIG in the news, perhaps created by a BIG name, and often carrying a BIG price tag.

As advertised, they are surely funky and unique. 40 objects–both historical and contemporary- have been gathered from the ROM’s extensive collections and showcase BIG from around the world. They range from Egyptian clothing to 18th- and 19th-century Western costumes to 20th-century Haute Couture. Some have never before been on display. 

BIG is generously supported by the Burnham Brett Endowment for Textiles and Costume and The Dorothy Strelsin Foundation.

Recently, I replied to a question posed to me privately about what historical influences inform my fiber artwork with the response that I am personally more interested in focusing on and using contemporary materials and techniques. However, I also clearly stated that I certainly recognize the importance of, and am educated in, the historical, and value the contribution of that past to the fiber arts of today. The person who posed this question to me then used my personal response to him in a public posting on his blog (without naming me, but most certainly using a selective PART of my quote) and slammed my view to his broad audience. Since I had made it clear I was VERY supportive of the past’s importance in the fiber arts, it was disheartening to have my individual preference for the contemporary twisted and negated in a public forum!

In this wondrous art world we share there is no “right” way, but rather a fantastic cornucopia of ideas, beliefs and approaches that open up a wealth of opportunity to consistently learn and grow. There is room for the past, present and future in creativity and there is room for each to inform the others…or not. This makes our work unique: variety, individuality and variance in vision and concept. I am NOT “less” for not using the historical as the main platform from which I create concept, I am just “different”.

I thought a great deal about the antagonistic relationship I now have with this individual as I toured the exhibition BIG at the Royal Ontario Museum on July 22, 2013. 

Intended to enlighten, the exhibition also provides a fresh perspective to those curious-or not- about clothing and objects from a myriad of eras and cultures. Drawn from the more than 50,000 textile works in the museum's collection, these seemingly unrelated works provide viewers an extraordinary and byte-sized look into a variety of techniques, cultures, social structures, skills and practices. They also occasionally inspire a giggle, which is what the chair below got from my 16 year old daughter as she realized the seated person would be on top of a porcupine! 

Tapestry covered armchair upholstery designed by Canadian painter Percyval Tudor-Hart 1926-27 Woven in France, long tradition of European tapestry woven furnishing fabrics from the late medieval period onwards. Humor- Garden of Eden beauty juxtaposed with sitting on a porcupine!  

Tapestry covered armchair upholstery designed by Canadian painter Percyval Tudor-Hart 1926-27

Woven in France, long tradition of European tapestry woven furnishing fabrics from the late medieval period onwards. Humor- Garden of Eden beauty juxtaposed with sitting on a porcupine!

 

I respect this critic’s own work, his contribution to the fiber arts, and I value his style and interest in the historical but I am confused about why my artistic emphasis on the modern is so affronting to him? I wanted him to be there with me at the exhibition to intellectually discuss its foot in the past and its present importance, to debate in an informed, shared, experiential way with the two of us giving to the conversation our unique perspectives. I LOVED the exhibition, but all I could think about was his accusation that I am somehow “less” of an artist because I don’t want to utilize historical influences blatantly in my personal work. Why do we always expect others to be like us?

 

In 1891 Whitcomb L. Judson invented the “clasp locker” AKA zipper for use in boots Reworked in 2005 by Maison Martin Margiela in Paris into a vest “utilitarian objects and materials reworked to alter the shape and size to generate new life”  

In 1891 Whitcomb L. Judson invented the “clasp locker” AKA zipper for use in boots

Reworked in 2005 by Maison Martin Margiela in Paris into a vest “utilitarian objects and materials reworked to alter the shape and size to generate new life”

 

Was the lowly zipper intended to be used in a fashion garment? Should it have stayed in the context of the utilitarian historically? Can we merely enjoy the designer's ingenuity without looking back at context? This is one of the things that I believe this exhibition did well; put seemingly disparate objects from several different time periods and design groupings together and use them as teachable, creative-building moments. I chose a few pieces to show you here....but if you get to Toronto, don’t miss the exhibition…and save about 4 more hours to tour this incredible museum!!!!! Please do forgive the terrible photos....the light in the exhibition is intentionally VERY low so as to preserve the fragility of the fibers. 

Andre Edouard Marty 1925 Designed for the 1925 Exposition Internationale des arts Decoratifs et Industriels Modernes Tourism, Modern speed and Leisure

Andre Edouard Marty 1925

Designed for the 1925 Exposition Internationale des arts Decoratifs et Industriels Modernes

Tourism, Modern speed and Leisure

First Nations technique of finger weaving 1825-1875 adopted by the early Quebec settlers- became iconic; important fur trade items  

First Nations technique of finger weaving 1825-1875

adopted by the early Quebec settlers- became iconic; important fur trade items