Emphasizing a non-materialistic Buddhist sensibility, this cover for a religious text was pieced from a badge indicating high status in the chinese imperial court. Top: Rank badge, China, Ming dynasty. Collection of Dr. Young Yang Chung. (Not on view). Bottom: Sutra cover made from a rank badge, China, 16th-17th century. TM 51.37. Acquired by George Hewitt Myers in 1956.
Second Lives: the Age-Old Art of Recycling Textiles
on view at The Textile Museum February 4, 2011 – January 8, 2012
February 2, 2011, Washington, D.C. — The Textile Museum launches a year-long exploration of the ties between textiles and environmentalism with the opening of two new exhibitions in 2011. Second Lives: The Age-Old Art of Recycling Textiles (February 4, 2011 – January 8, 2012) presents ingenious examples of repurposed textiles from around the world. Examples from the museum’s diverse permanent collections illustrate this phenomenon across cultures and centuries. These historic examples complement the major exhibition opening later this spring: Green: the Color and the Cause (April 16 -September 11, 2011).
About the Exhibition
Long before vintage fashion boutiques were in vogue, artisans found ways to repurpose precious handmade textiles. Throughout history and across cultures, textiles were so valuable that worn and threadbare fabrics were seldom simply discarded. Textiles are reused for aesthetic, symbolic, or practical reasons. Recycling can be an act of remembrance or signification; like a quilt pieced from childhood clothes, new textile forms carry the memories of past times, owners, experiences, and uses into the future.
Second Lives features 18 objects from The Textile Museum’s permanent collection that showcase the different forms repurposing textiles has taken around the world. Objects on view date from the 16th through the 20th centuries and include patchwork hangings from Uzbekistan, India and Iran, textiles woven with recycled fiber from Japan and the American Southwest, and garments constructed from discarded religious textiles from the Pacific Northwest coast and Turkey. Each object embodies layers of meaning and social significance.
Several of the objects on view carry religious significance—either in their original form, or in their repurposed incarnation. A sutra (religious text) cover from the 16-17th century is pieced from an insignia badge worn by a Chinese military officer during the Ming dynasty. In order to accrue merit for deceased loved ones, people in East Asia sometimes donated dead family members’ fine clothing to Buddhist temples, where they were reconfigured into new forms for sacred use. In the Islamic world, fine textiles once used as coverings at holy sites in Mecca and Medina were distributed to pilgrims, some of whom used these fabrics to create objects imbued with almost magical significance. A red silk vest adorned with verses from the Koran was likely worn by its wearer as a talisman.
Luxurious garments communicate wealth and status, and when they can no longer be worn, cultures have found ways to reuse them. A panel from a Qing dynasty (1644-1912) Chinese dragon robe, a prestigious garment requiring two to three years of labor to complete, is included in this exhibition as a wall hanging.
While some textiles are valued for the labor involved, others are valued for the stories they tell. Two finely woven velvet panels from 16th-century Persia found their way to Ottoman Turkey, where Sultan Suleyman the Magnificent (1494-1566) used them to embellish his tent. Taken from Turkey to Poland in the 17th century, they were incorporated into a noble family’s sled blanket, used until the 1920s.
Second Lives: the Age-Old Art of Recycling Textiles is organized by Lee Talbot, Associate Curator, Eastern Hemisphere Collections.
About The Textile Museum
Established in 1925 by George Hewitt Myers, The Textile Museum is an international center for the exhibition, study, collection and preservation of the textile arts. The museum explores the role that textiles play in the daily and ceremonial life of individuals the world over. Special attention is given to textiles of the Near East, Asia, Africa and the indigenous cultures of the Americas. The museum also presents exhibitions of historical and contemporary quilts, and fiber art. With a collection of more than 18,000 textiles and rugs, The Textile Museum is a unique and valuable resource for people locally, nationally and internationally.
The Textile Museum is located at 2320 ‘S’ Street, NW in Washington, D.C. The museum is open Tuesday through Saturday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. An $8 donation is requested of non-members.
For more information, call (202) 667-0441 or visit www.textilemuseum.org.
For more information, please contact Katy Clune at (202) 667-0441, ext. 77, or by e-mail at email@example.com or visit www.textilemuseum.org/about/pressroom.htm.
Request a link to a gallery of high-resolution exhibition images available for download.
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