Curated by the National Basketry Organization in collaboration with the Museum of Art and Archaeology at the University of Missouri, ninety-three objects in this exhibition provide an historical overview of American basketry from its origins in Native American, immigrant and slave communities to its presence within the contemporary fine art world.
Rooted, Revived, Reinvented: Basketry in America is on view at South Dakota Art Museum October 19, 2018 to January 12, 2019. A public reception will be hosted at the museum on October 26 from 5 to 7 p.m. with a talk at 5:45 p.m. by co-curators Jo Stealey and Kristin Schwain.
Jodi Lundgren, South Dakota Art Museum curator of exhibitions, sees this exhibit as an opportunity to display a rich variety of basketry styles and techniques for museum visitors and students.
“This exhibition explores so many aspects of American basketry, from historical baskets rooted in local landscapes and shaped by cultural traditions to very contemporary and sculptural art works and the objects in this exhibition are exquisite," Lundgren said. "We look forward to the South Dakota State University students and other fine arts programs exploring and drawing inspiration from these works. We also know that visitors with or without a deep basketry background will experience those ‘wow’ moments that we always hope to achieve with our exhibitions.”
According to co-curators Stealey and Schwain, “Baskets convey meaning through the artists’ selection of materials; the techniques they use; and the colors, designs, patterns and textures they employ. This exhibition will feel both familiar and alien to visitors. Some objects are very utilitarian while others defy every idea you might have about what a basket could be."
Rooted, Revived, Reinvented is organized in five sections. Cultural Origins presents baskets created with traditional materials and techniques for utilitarian and ritual uses as well as the tourist trade. The New Basketry showcases artists who elevated basketry to a fine art by exploring the sculptural and expressive potential of traditional craft media. The remaining sections highlight three dominant strains in the contemporary basketry movement. Living Traditions encompasses works that are predicated on historical models but also express the artists' innovative contributions to them. In Basket as Vessel, artists use the relationship between inside and outside inherent in the vessel form to explore conceptual concerns and generate social commentary. Finally, artists included in Beyond the Basket incorporate traditional and nontraditional techniques and materials to question cultural assumptions and address the nature of art itself.
About the curators
Jo Stealey, Ph.D., is Director of the University of Missouri School of Visual Studies and Professor of Fibers. She has lectured on the contemporary basket movement at national and international conferences as well as curated many textile and basketry exhibitions. She is recognized nationally for her own sculptural basket work and her work is included in many private and public collections including the Smithsonian. She has served as a board member for the National Basketry Organization (NBO) and regularly contributes articles on American basketry for the NBO Quarterly Review Magazine.
Kristin Schwain is Associate Professor of American Art at the University of Missouri. She was awarded a B.A. in Art History and Humanities from Valparaiso University and a joint Ph.D. in Art History and Humanities from Stanford University. Her first book, Signs of Grace: Religion and American Art in the Gilded Age (Cornell University Press, 2008), examined how late-nineteenth-century American artists drew on religious beliefs and practices to explore new relationships between viewers and objects, and how beholders looked to art in order to experience transcendence and save their souls. Her recent research seeks to complicate the story of American modernism by examining the roles played by religion, race, region and consumption in the production, display and reception of American visual and material culture.
About the National Basketry Organization
The National Basketry Organization is a non-profit organization that unites people interested in basketry to provide education and to promote basket making. Founded in the late 1990’s, the organization now has approximately 600 members, most of whom live in the United States and Canada. Although most of NBO’s members are basket makers, membership includes collectors, gallery owners, scholars, craft and art schools and museums.
NBO’s membership reflects the diversity of basketry in America. Its members include basket makers working in traditional materials and techniques as well as those who are using basketry materials and techniques to work in more contemporary and sculptural forms. Membership includes those who exhibit and sell their work as well as those whose interest is not commercial or professional.
Debora Muhl, Untitled #983, 1998. Sea grass, sinew, gourd, beads, 9.75" x 16" x 12"
The exhibition is a collaborative endeavor between the University of Missouri and the National Basketry Organization, curated by Jo Stealey and Kristin Schwain and 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.