Courtesy Shuzo Uemoto / Honolulu Academy of Arts
Bolts of Indonesian batik from the Christensen Fund Collection are on view at the Honolulu Academy of Arts.
Textures in art
Galleries and museums put textile pieces on display to celebrate their role in history and culture
University of Hawaii Art Gallery
Without "Writing with Thread: Traditional Textiles of Southwest Chinese Minorities," soon to open at the University of Hawaii Art Gallery, it's unlikely the Textile Society of America would have held its symposium here. Their connection is the man at the helm of both projects: Tom Klobe.
Klobe had already begun work on "Writing with Thread" when he was approached about organizing the symposium. Since the projects shared a common theme, Klobe agreed.
The exhibit, a showcase of some 500 objects produced by 17 ethnic groups and 108 subgroups, illustrates how indigenous people documented their cultures through textiles. Items include costumes of regalia, religious attire and silver jewelry, plus weaving and embroidery tools.
"Most of the minority groups had no written native language, so the stories were transmitted orally," Klobe said. "The women used clothing to record history and legends, which are depicted on the garments."
Angela Sheng of McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada, joined Klobe's project as curator.
"This was total team effort," she says, explaining that the show had its seeds in a series of "happy coincidences" in 2005, when Klobe met Huang Ying Feng, a collector of southwest Chinese textiles who had amassed more than 11,000 objects for the Evergrand Art Museum in Taiwan.
All the pieces in "Writing with Thread," on loan from Evergrand, were selected by Klobe, Sheng, Huang and art consultant Li Lundin. The exhibit is the first time the works will be shown in the United States.
The collective endeavor will display the industriousness and talent of ancient artisans who "haven't been given the attention they deserve," Sheng said. "This exhibit is one way to shine a light on their incredible achievements."
Courtesy Wang Lin-Sheng /
Evergrand Museum, Taoyuan, Taiwan
Miao woman's ensemble is displayed in "Writing with Thread: Traditional Textiles of Southwest Chinese Minorities" at the University of Hawaii Art Gallery.
The Honolulu Academy of Arts
Five related exhibits on view during the Textile Society of America's symposium should solidify Hawaii's position as a major player in the world of textiles.
Showing at the Honolulu Academy of Arts are "Indonesian Batik from the Christensen Fund Collection," "Bright and Daring: Japanese Kimono in the Taisho Mode," "Blue and White: Indigo-Dyed Japanese Textiles," "Earth and Sky: Chinese Textiles from the Academy's Collection" and "All About Textiles."
Plus, across the street, the Academy Art Center is showing "Tattered Cultures; Mended Histories" and "JiYoung Chung: Whisper-Romance III."
"We're an encyclopedic museum, and our textiles are heavily Asian, so hopefully we're showing things (the delegates) haven't seen yet. We're trying to provide a wide range," said Sara Oka, collection manager and acting textiles curator.
In that respect the academy has much to offer, with its nearly 6,000 pieces from 60 countries. "Lots of museums don't even have a textiles department," said Oka, putting the academy's collection in perspective.
While Oka is clearly proud of all the exhibits, she has a special admiration for the Indonesian batiks.
"A lot of these pieces are from the northern coast of Java, and they are different from what is normally considered to be batik. These are more vivid, with European and Chinese influences. That they're all so intricately rendered by someone's hand is remarkable," Oka said. "Batik works are incredible for their timeless beauty. They have universal appeal."
Courtesy Contemporary Museum
Sharon Britt's "Grumpy," made of root hairs, shells, hau fiber and waxed linen, is part of the Contemporary Museum show.
The Contemporary Museum at First Hawaiian Center
Jellyfish and art: apples and oranges, right? Not when you're dealing with fiber art.
"The definition of fiber encompasses a broad spectrum, including a lot of organic material," explains Inger Tully, curator of the Contemporary Museum at First Hawaiian Center in downtown Honolulu.
Tully hits upon this rather odd topic to discuss the gallery's statewide invitational "Contemporary Fiber of Hawaii" exhibit, which features some 50 works from 23 artists on Oahu, Maui, Kauai and the Big Island.
"What I found interesting when I started thinking about a connecting thread is that the show is extremely diverse," she said. "The artists use everything from regular fabric to jellyfish."
Tully said the strength of the show comes in the artists' skill at stretching the boundaries of both the materials they use and the techniques they employ.
"Some artists are using recycled materials, but they're doing traditional weaving and knotting. One artist uses wire for a quilting technique, so what we've got is a quilt made out of wire."
Tully thinks delegates from the Textile Society of America symposium will be surprised at the diversity -- "They won't be able to stereotype fiber art in our state" -- but she believes the wide spectrum is reflective of Hawaii.
"We reference so many cultures here, both ancient and modern," she said.
Taking part in the citywide showcase of textile art has been gratifying, Tully said, because "we're trying to make something together that's bigger than ourselves."
Courtesy David Franzen
A quilt from 1899 was made of four Hawaiian flags placed in an upside-down position, said to indicate a country in distress.
In Maile Andrade's scholarly work with the Bishop Museum, she's been asked to look at its Hawaiiana collection "as material culture."
Andrade, both an artist and a professor of Hawaiian studies at the University of Hawaii, is curating one of its textile shows, "Ili Iho: The Surface Within."
Yet, as a Hawaiian, examining cultural items in such a dry, academic fashion seems rather off the mark for Andrade. "As Hawaiians we are taught to listen to kupuna (elders). I look at the pieces as ancestors that 'speak' of our culture and traditions."
Because of this conflict, it took many discussions with museum staffer Noelle Kahanu for Andrade to figure out how she would curate "Ili Iho."
The exhibit centers on four historic works -- a feathered cape, makaloa mat, kapa and quilt -- and eight artists: four males, four females, four of them emerging artists and the others established ones. All are native Hawaiian.
Andrade paired one man and one woman with each of the four pieces and had them sit with the works.
"I based their approach to the pieces on our relationship with our ancestors. I told them they were to treat the works as kupuna," she said "In spending time with the pieces, they (came away with) a conceptual idea, then figured out how that translates into a contemporary theme."
The end results -- the artwork -- will be exhibited alongside their "ancestors."
"I hope the pieces will have conversations with each other the way their creators did with the ancestral piece," Andrade said.