Objective Issue No. 4

Page 1

Journal of the History of Design and Curatorial Studies

Parsons School of Design

Issue No. 4

Spring/Summer 2019



Objective Journal of the History of Design and Curatorial Studies M.A. Program Parsons School of Design Issue No. 4 Editors in Chief: Lily Stav Gildor and Nick Stagliano Editorial Board: Ben Green, Mina Warchavchik Hugerth, Jean Marie Layton, Annaleigh McDonald Designer: Qianwen Deng Copy Editors: Rachel Hunnicutt, Kelly Konrad, Jean Marie Layton, Jeffery McCullough Faculty Advisor: Dr. Marilyn Cohen


Image Credits Front cover: Sidewall (France), ca. 1860; Manufactured by Dufour et Leroy; block printed on continuous paper; Gift of Carolle Thibaut-Pomerantz; 1998-62-7; Photo: Matt Flynn © Smithsonian Institution Inside front cover: Textile (England or United States), 1920-1930; linen; Gift of Mrs. Germaine Little; 1968-110-22; Photo: Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum Pages 1-2: Katagami, Iris, late 19th- early 20th century; cut mulberry paper treated with persimmon tannin and silk thread; Gift of Helen Snyder; 1976-103-290; Photo: Matt Flynn © Smithsonian Institution Page 4: Sidewall, Anubis, 1978; USA; screen printed, vinyl; 1980-65-1; Photo: Matt Flynn © Smithsonian Institution Page 5: Chandelier, ca. 1925; William Hunt Diederich; cut steel and wrought iron; Collection of the Newark Museum, Gift of Herman A.E. Paul C. Jaehne; 40.2016.1 Inside back cover: Textile, Manuscript, 1953; cotton; American Textile History Museum Collection; 2016-35-39; Photo: Matt Flynn © Smithsonian Institution



Letter from the Editors The fourth issue of Objective examines the complicated dialogue between

ornamentation and social responsibility by exploring a diverse range of topics related to architecture, decorative arts, and material culture. Whether it’s the politics of adornment or the wonders of the natural world transmuted and transformed, the issue asks the questions: how does design illuminate the cultural and historical expectations of beauty? And how can innovation in design help us to protect a deteriorating organic and politicized landscape?

This installment of Objective coincides with the opening of Nature—Cooper Hewitt Design Triennial. Included here is an in-depth conversation with three curators about the exhibition and the opportunities in technology to build a more cooperative and protected environment. The issue also features case studies about objects and designs influenced by natural forms and scientific imagery ranging from early twentieth-century French garden design drawings to the recent SeaGlass Carousel in New York’s Battery Park.

Other articles consider the ever-changing influence design has on the politics of gender. Through popular culture and historical objects, they examine the ways in which design can perpetuate or combat the social expectations of women. Authors explore the male and female gaze in the films The Stepford Wives (1975) and 20th Century Women (2016), and the invention of the sports bra. Two essays demonstrate the evolution of personal accessories, from the jewelry of eighteenth-century Parisians to twenty-first century manicures that celebrate the cultural phenomenon of the Broadway musical Hamilton (premiered 2015) through nail wraps.

Our issue also reflects on the challenges in research and curatorial practices, such

as the difficulties of rewriting a design history to include the objects and customs of under-represented communities. One contributor, a Hopi member of the Colorado River Indian Tribes, reviews Art of Native America, an exhibition at The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Another review interrogates the traditional house museum and how curators can use and enliven historical spaces to tell a richer design narrative.

This fourth issue of Objective expands upon the journal’s commitment both to

contemporary design issues and curiosity for the past. The research and academic commentary in Objective are inspired by our faculty and by the holdings of Cooper Hewitt. We hope the articles here by fellow students and program alumni offer new insights that spark conversation and debate about the protean history of design and curatorial studies.

Lily Stav Gildor Nick Stagliano


Table of Contents


Letter from the Editors


The Whole Earth Catalog: Counterculture Design in the late 1960s Susan Kinsey


The SeaGlass Carousel: A Surreal Synthesis of the Organic and the Artificial Lily Stav Gildor


Cultivating Design: A Conversation with Cooper Hewitt Curators about Nature Mina Warchavchik Hugerth and Margaret Simons


Pottery Is Political Nick Stagliano


A Design for an Ornamental Garden by AndrĂŠ and Paul Vera Nicholas de Godoy Lopes


Considering the Anti-Colonialist Board Game Spirit Island Nicholas de Godoy Lopes


The Reconsideration of the House Museum Virginia Pollock


Ottoman and Orientalism Sebastian Grant


A Perspective on Art of Native America Erin Monique Grant


Indian Markets: The Future of Native American Art and Craft in the Marketplace Sophia Salsbery


Ribbons and Girandoles: Brilliance in Eighteenth-Century Paris Fashion and Court Culture Lori Ettlinger Gross


The Story of the Jogbra Sydney Friedman


Polishing Up on History Forrest Pelsue


Women with Cameras in Film: The Stepford Wives and 20th Century Women Ben Green




Special Thanks



Whole Earth from space, viewed from Apollo 17, December 1972. This was the first photograph of the south polar ice cap. Most of Africa is visible, together with the Arabian Peninsular and Madagascar. Photo by F&A Archive / Art Resource, NY.

In Fall of 1968, the first edition of

The Whole Earth Catalog: Counterculture Design in the late 1960s Susan R. Kinsey


the Whole Earth Catalog (WEC) was published. Within five years, it became a counterculture icon and a bellwether of a new conversation in America about ecological responsibility. The personality behind the WEC was Stewart Brand—a Stanford graduate with a background in systems thinking—who believed that mass commodification, which was choking the life out of American individualism had to be countered. He assembled a team of designers including Buckminster Fuller, Jay Baldwin, Steve Baer, and Lloyd Kahn, all of whom knew how to build things, and set about selling the idea of a lifestyle that privileged artisanal skills and environmental sustainability. The objective was to create what one scholar described as, “a Bauhaus without walls,” where handcraft met technology.1

The resulting Whole Earth Catalog spoke to the idea of self-sufficiency and individualism inflected with communitarianism and common purpose.

These principles sat in opposition to

the mainstream American culture of mass production and were reflected in the design of the WEC. Rural postwar America did much of its shopping through publications like the Montgomery Ward and Sears catalogs, both of which began their mail order businesses in the late nineteenth century. From the end of WWII through the 1960s, these catalogs reached into American homes across the country marketing everything from bicycles to dry goods to furniture. Both companies were sophisticated retailers selling the American middle-class dream of acquisition and ownership. However, by the late 1960s, the automobile and the mall made catalog shopping less interesting to American consumers, and both Sears and Ward were struggling to keep their catalogs relevant.2 Stewart Brand, however, was far more interested in the L.L.Bean Company which began its catalog business in 1912 selling one product—the Bean Boot hunting shoe—in a small four-page mail order spread. What Brand was seeing by the 1960s in Bean’s catalog, and what distinguished that company from other mail order businesses, were the detailed folksy reviews of well-made, durable products and a mythos of survival in the great outdoors. These positioning strategies had made loyal fans of its readers. Brand had this same goal of loyalty and trust in mind when he organized the WEC, not as a retail publication, but rather as an aggregator of product information. In effect, he sold nothing other than the expertise and opinions of his readers in a communitarian “network forum”3 which anyone could join

for the price of a subscription. He restated the WEC’s purpose at the start of every issue: “The Whole Earth Catalog functions as an evaluation and access device. With it, the user should know better what is worth getting and where and how to do the getting.”4

In its graphic design, the WEC was nothing like the slick, colorful mail order merchandising catalogs filled with images of mass-produced products in a seemingly infinite variety of choices accompanied by advertising copy that made every item seem indispensable. Instead, it invited readers to immerse themselves in a nononsense black-and-white textual and visual landscape. Within the pages of each issue, mini-narratives of inter-related products, books, reviews, and commentary brought coherence to what might, at first glance, appear to be an anarchic collection of information. These textual narratives were accompanied by photographs, sketches, hand-drawings, charts, and scribbles to create visual appeal and spur curiosity. Kevin Kelly, former publisher of the Whole Earth Review, explained the logic of Brand’s page design when he explained that juxtaposing an advertisement for a Vermont wood-burning stove next to the latest information about Apple computers was perfectly logical for Brand because he saw an underlying connection between the two objects. “The Vermont Castings tool manipulated heat, and the Apple tool manipulated information. Both cost a few hundred dollars, both were made by and for revolutionaries who wanted to deinstitutionalize society and empower the individual, both embodied clever design ideas.”5 There was a table of contents that underscored Brand’s page logic and that provided an orderly pathway through the material with seven subject matter categories (later to become nine): Understanding Whole Systems, Shelter and Land Use, Industry and Craft, Community, Communications, Nomadics, and Learning.


Author Alex W. White, in his book Elements of Design, points out that “…determining a document’s purpose and its page size are the first decisions a designer must make.


The page’s size and its shape create reader expectations.”6 An unusually shaped page would catch a reader’s attention and predispose him or her to anticipate something different, and that is precisely what the Whole Earth Catalog did with its A3 paper. This was a very large piece of printed material, and each issue argued to be kept. Typographically, the WEC intentionally communicated the look and feel of amateurish production values, underscoring both the folksy voice, which Brand modeled on the L.L. Bean catalog, and the home-made quality of the WEC. That message was later reinforced by an editorial observation on the Whole Earth Catalog website which read: “The breakthrough tool was the IBM Selectric Composer, a fancy typewriter with a replaceable ‘golf ball’ instead of individual keys striking the paper. The many type fonts and sizes you see in this replica of the ’68 Catalog are how many of the ‘golf balls’ we had.” 7 Indeed the type sizes and the fonts were a jumble throughout the publication making the WEC a challenge to read. Additionally, the page grids were inconsistent—sometimes vertical, sometimes horizontal, and sometimes both—making it impossible to read across the page in a strictly linear fashion. And because the pages were tightly packed with images and text, white space, which is generally manipulated to help guide a reader’s eye through a page, was accorded less importance. All these particularities signified the WEC was not meant for the casual reader; rather it was designed for someone who would spend time pouring over its content to grasp the underlying embedded message—that it was possible

to live “…a different relationship to the making and getting of goods and services and to the labor process itself.”8

In some ways, according to Simon Sadler, Professor of Architectural and Urban History at the University of CaliforniaDavis, the Whole Earth Catalog can trace part of its heritage to the eighteenth-century Encyclopédie of Diderot and d’Alembert.9 This massive undertaking, published from 1751-1765 was an affirmation of faith in scientific and technological progress and an implicit challenge to the monarchy and the Church at a crucial period of French history. A similar moment of existential crisis in this country was at play when the WEC was born. America in the 1960s was a landscape saturated with mass-market consumerism, punctuated by race and class conflict and by the bodies of young dead Americans who were sent to fight a war they could never win. If this was America’s worst nightmare of capitalism and a military-industrial complex run amok, then the antidote was a resistance movement that ran the gamut from organized demonstrations to a back-tonature movement which saw young people deserting their urban lifestyles to take up rural communal living. In tandem, a group of scientists, environmentalists, and social activists had come to recognize that decentralized, individualized, smallscale technologies could have liberating consequences and, at the same time, could reduce each individual’s carbon footprint. They were known as alternative technologists and Stewart Brand was among them. He set about to designing a whole systems solution for the problem of how to live off the land self-sufficiently and sustainably, and the Whole Earth Catalog was this design solution. His goal was to create a publication that would bring together the best tools and books from diverse suppliers to create a critical mass of value that would appeal to a very large audience.10 The back-to-nature movement was

foundational to the WEC and according to Andrew Kirk, it was premised upon Brand’s conviction that large numbers of Americans would recognize the dehumanizing effects of living in a culture of commodification and would choose instead a communitarian, environmentally sound lifestyle. “The first issues of the catalog were aimed at those who were working to use the best of smallscale technology to literally disconnect themselves from the infrastructures of mainstream society and relocate to rural or wilderness areas. At first, the WEC promoted radically detached self-sufficiency as the key to a viable revolutionary politics.”11

This back-to-nature movement had

antecedents in American culture which owed inspiration to a range of sources from transcendentalism to the homesteading practices of Ralph and Myrtle Borsodi. Counterculture adherents were energized by the publication in 1962 of Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring and Barry Commoner’s Science and Survival in 1963, both warning of impending environmental crises and the dangers of unfettered technology. For Brand, living with new technologies in a sensible, cost-effective and earth-friendly fashion was a collective responsibility, and he reminded readers of this fact at the start of every issue of the WEC: “We are as gods and might as well get used to it.”12 As the WEC evolved over the five years of its existence, it continually promoted ever newer, clean energyproducing technologies. By 1971, there were far fewer wood-burning stoves in the Whole Earth Catalog and more information about solar and wind powered technologies, geothermal heat, biogas conversion, and recycled fuels.

So how does one evaluate the success of

Brand’s oppositional design solution? The Fall 1968 Whole Earth Catalog cover was graced by the first NASA satellite photo of the earth seen from space taken in 1967. It was, and still is, an astounding image to behold—our world, flecked with blue oceans, alone in the blackness of space. Robert Horvitz, a former editor of CoEvolution Quarterly magazine, suggested that Brand’s choice of this image for the cover implicitly told readers the WEC had a radical agenda: “We are all in this together and humanity is but a small part of a miraculous and delicate ecosystem.”13 If the image and its significance was aweinspiring, the table of contents of the WEC was a “call to reason, morality, and action,”14 reminding readers that selfsufficiency and sustainability were viable and responsible lifestyle choices. Although Brand’s dream, that large numbers of Americans would abandon their current lives and move back to nature, did not happen, the WEC went on to win a National Book Award in 1972, and to spin off two Magazines—the Whole Earth Review and CoEvolution Quarterly—based on continuing demand. By the end of his tenure as editor of the Catalog, Brand had shifted his focus to information technology, which he saw as a new and important tool for personal empowerment and social transformation. He envisioned that an open source network of like-minded individuals might have a greater chance of promoting societal change, and the Whole Earth ‘Lectronic Link (WELL), which he launched in 1985, “became one of the early attempts to create a ‘virtual community’.”15

The counterculture movement of the

1960s not only changed the way America saw its role in the world, but it also altered the way we viewed our individual and 10

collective relationship to government and private industry. This legacy has contributed to the reinterpretation of some of our most basic personal rights and civic responsibilities. We may not have reached consensus as a country on all the issues which divide us, but whatever lessons we learned about the efficacy of community and common purpose benefited from the experiment that was the Whole Earth Catalog.


1. Simon Sadler, “An Architecture of the Whole,” Journal of Architectural Education 61, no. 4 (May 2008): 112.

speech delivered in the Czech Republic, May 4-5, 2002, quoted in The Whole Earth Catalog website, www.wholeearth.com/issue/1010/article/195.

2. Robin Cherry, Catalog: The Illustrated History of Mail-Order Shopping (New York: Princeton Architectural Press, 2008): 18, 20.

11. Kirk, “Appropriating Technology,” 383.

3. Fred Turner, “Where the Counterculture Met the New Economy: The WELL and the Origins of Virtual Community,” Technology and Culture 46, no. 3 (July 2005): 489.

13. T he W hole Earth Catalog. http://www. wholeearth.com.

4. The Whole Earth Catalog. http://www. wholeearth.com.

15. Kirk, “Appropriating Technology,” 389.

5. Kevin Kelly, ed., Signal: Communications Tools for the Information Age, A Whole Earth Catalog (New York: Harmony Books, 1988), 3, quoted in Andrew Kirk, “Appropriating Technology: The Whole Earth Catalog and Counterculture Environmental Politics,” Environmental History 6, no. 3 (July 2001): 385. 6. Alex W. White, The Elements of Graphic Design (New York: Allworth Press, 2002), 79. 7. “Understanding Whole Systems,” The Whole Earth Catalog website, www.wholeearth.com/ issue/1010/article/195/we.are.as.gods. 8. David Farber, “Self-Invention in the Realm of Production: Craft, Beauty, and Community in the American Counterculture, 1964-1978,” Pacific Historical Review (Oakland: University of California Press, 2016): 409. 9. Simon Sadler, “An Architecture of the Whole,” 108. 10. Robert Horvitz, “Wilderness as a Phenomenon of Integral Culture,” conference 11

12. The Whole Earth Catalog. http://www. wholeearth.com.

14. Sadler, “An Architecture of the Whole,” 122.

Photograph by Paul Warchol courtesy of WXY Studio

The SeaGlass Carousel: A Surreal Synthesis of the Organic and the Artificial Lily Stav Gildor “I think of it as a little underwater garden, a tiny paradise island surrounded by the

city.” Thusly did set designer George Tsypin describe his concept for the Battery Park’s SeaGlass carousel.1 An amusement ride that imitates an underwater adventure, the SeaGlass carousel stands adjacent to the September 11th memorial and other assorted monuments in New York City’s Battery Park. Tsypin and his collaborators aspired to construct an original, stirring space that would embody the ocean’s precarious allure. The carousel’s combination of fabricated materials and organic imagery generates a surreal environment; visitors are thrilled by the towering fish and simulated bioluminescence, yet concurrently drift into deep contemplation. Furthermore, the carousel operates as a theatrical space in which visitors are both performers and spectators, equalizing the hierarchy between subject and object. 12

The carousel’s inception dates to 2004

when architects Claire Weisz and Mark Yoes pitched their concept to Warrie Price, president and founder of The Battery Conservancy. The two designers had collaborated with horticultural planner Piet Oudolf on Battery Park’s garden designs and envisioned a playful space that would recall the park’s history. The carousel’s oceanic theme derives from the New York Aquarium, which stood in the Battery’s iconic Castle Clinton from 1896 until 1941 when it moved to its current location in Coney Island.2 The Battery Conservancy was founded in 1994 to protect and revitalize the park; however, in the aftermath of September 11th the organization’s mission shifted to the complex and poignant rehabilitation of the area. A joyful, recreational ride could offer visitors a wondrous reprieve from the devastating memories that swirl through the park’s atmosphere.3 Price recruited Tsypin, the esteemed Russian-born architect and theatre designer, to develop the interactive experience with Weisz and Yoes. Tsypin is responsible for a diverse assortment of creative, performative endeavors, including the Opening Ceremony of the 2014 Sochi Olympics and various stage designs for international operas and theatre productions. Tsypin’s work for the Broadway musical “Disney’s The Little Mermaid” made him the perfect choice to create the underwater, fantastical carousel.4

The architects pursued an ambitious

project that took more than ten years to complete and cost the Conservancy $16 million. The creators utilized new techniques and materials that differentiate the carousel from alternative recreational rides. The 2,575-square-foot pavilion sits within Battery Park’s gardens and is sculpted to resemble a large, spiraling 13

nautilus.5 The structure’s form immediately notifies visitors that they are about to enter an aquatic, mystical space. The juxtaposition of the striking steel skeleton and the neighboring bucolic greenery emphasizes the surreal experience found within the carousel. The underwater motif immediately evokes the oceanic sublime that Edmund Burke describes in his text, A Philosophical Inquiry into the Origin of our Ideas of the Sublime and Beautiful. Burke writes, The passion caused by the great and sublime in nature, when those cases operate most powerfully, is Astonishment; and astonishment is that state of soul, in which all its motions are suspended with some degree of horror… can it ever fill the mind with anything so great as the ocean itself ? This is owing to several causes, but it is owing to none more than this, that the ocean is an object of no small terror. Indeed terror is in all cases whatsoever, either more openly or latently the ruling principle of the sublime.6

Burke asserts that the immeasurable and ominous ocean evokes a contemplative state that is self-transcendent. The carousel asks its passengers to suspend control and surrender to the mechanism for several minutes. This power dynamic recalls Burke’s theory that the sublime emerges from the tension between an individual’s strength and the nonconformity of grand conceptions. The carousel’s oceanic setting captures Burke’s notion of astonishment and enlightens individuals with its distinct, spiritual premise.

The interior of the SeaGlass carousel

deploys innovative machinery to create the circular rotations; instead of the customary center pole, four turntables are driven by electric motors housed below the floor. Thirty towering translucent fiberglass fish

are positioned on the various turntables, bobbing up and down and whirling through the vast interior. Fiber optic lights are built into the objects and radiate pastel colors. Visitors sit inside the fish and are immediately confronted by the scintillating surroundings.7 The tactile relationship between visitors’ bodies and the manufactured “sea glass” results in an unusual dialogue between artificial and natural. The creatures are impenetrable and industrial, but their transparency gives the appearance of flexibility and airiness. This negotiation of intimacy between the materials and the individual recalls philosopher Immanuel Kant’s seminal writings on the beautiful and the sublime, an extension of the theories that Burke proposed thirty-five years earlier. Kant asserts, The mind feels itself set in motion in the representation of the sublime in nature; whereas in the aesthetic judgement upon what is beautiful therein it is in restful

contemplation. This movement, especially in its inception, may be compared with a shaking, i.e. with a rapidly alternating repulsion and attraction produced by one and the same object.8

The psychological oscillation that emerges in response to the sublime produces a vibrancy that is mimicked in the carousel’s visual and physical undulations. The fiberglass material denotes strength and fragility, urging passengers to reconsider their own perception of tangible elements.

Despite larger-than-life sizes and manmade materials of the fish, their forms and visual characteristics are based on real species. The SeaGlass carousel’s promotional material explicitly draws attention to the designer’s scientific specificity and emphasizes the correspondence between the ride’s creatures and their real-life counterparts.9 This association is striking for its reinforcement of a dream-like space that is simultaneously fanciful and recognizable.

Photograph by Sara Cedar Miller courtesy of WXY Studio


Kant argues that the sublime does not emerge out of the physical elements of nature, but instead in the ruminative mind of the viewer.10 Tsypin did not need to construct a faithful replica of the ocean to evoke the sublime and its consequent contemplations; that said, he did not devise the objects out of pure imagination. In an interview about the project, Tsypin recounted his concept: “This little pavilion and the carousel are not real nature, but rather a metaphor, a piece of kinetic sculpture that evokes a sense of enormous natural beauty that surrounds us…”11 The carousel is an emblem of the sublime insofar as it deploys accessible biological forms to transport passengers to the depths of the ocean for a moment of reflection and wonderment.

Notwithstanding the architectural

soundness of the carousel, the ride’s surrealism provokes impressions of trepidation and uncertainty. As visitors are swept into the fantasy of the ocean, they are confronted with its inherent vastness and force. Tsypin aspired to capture this tension in the carousel: “There is nothing more mysterious than water and the bottom of the ocean. The color, the shapes, the bioluminescent glow: we think of the underwater world as a transcendent reality that endlessly attracts, yet terrifies.”12 The ride harnesses this seduction by surprising visitors with unconventional tactile connections amidst the swirling beams of light. In Kant’s postulations about the sublime, he argues that our fear of nature lies in our understanding of its power and supremacy over us; however, we can appreciate this type of fear when we understand our own safety.13 The carousel demonstrates this delicate dance; the reassurance of security and the unpredictability of nature synthesize into 15

an episode that expands one’s imagination.

The Battery Conservancy envisioned the

carousel as a symbol of collectivity and restoration in the tragic atmosphere of Ground Zero. Passengers connect with one another because of the experiential constitution of the ride. Its lack of a conventional center pole offers passengers a view of the entire pavilion; they become objects of observation, enclosed within the carousel’s mythical creatures. In this fluid domain, individuals can connect through a shared experience that occurs independently from the urban landscape. In an area so fraught with destruction and defeat, the carousel alludes to the Battery’s former occupant, the New York Aquarium. The architects conceived a permanent, public installation that motivates pursuits of community and marvel.

The spectacle of the SeaGlass carousel is

further emphasized by the configuration of its pavilion. The glass panels embedded in the nautilus shell are made of SmartGlass, an advanced material able to transition from transparent to dark blue. These colors emphasize the ride’s underwater sensations, darkening the space with a cerulean glow against the shimmering projections.14 Notwithstanding the variations in the SmartGlass, the panes retain their transparency and function as windows between the carousel and the exterior landscape. This visibility accentuates the theatricality of the entertainment; visitors become both the performers and the audience. In his essay “The Exhibitionary Complex,” sociologist Tony Bennett analyzes the establishment of the exhibition in the nineteenth century and the social and ideological hierarchies that resulted. Drawing from philosopher Michel Foucault’s theories about the Panopticon,

Bennett argues that national and cultural institutions demonstrate power through an observation of objects and individuals and therefore infuse new self-regulating networks of influence into the public.15 Bennett argues, The exhibitionary complex…perfected a self-monitoring system of looks in which the subject and object positions can be exchanged, in which the crowd comes to commune with and regulate itself through interiorizing the ideal and ordered view of itself as seen from the controlling vision of power—a site of sight accessible to all.16

Bennett’s theory asserts that these exhibitions embodied utopian principles and presented objects as symbols of progress.17 The SeaGlass carousel integrates Bennett’s exhibitionary complex into its constructed imaginative space; the exchange between subject and object democratizes the experience.

In the fantasy theater of the SeaGlass

carousel, visitors are transported to an otherworldly domain where imagination transcends the limitations of reality. The carousel’s innovative materials simulate the sensation of being underwater, but the fiberglass fish and illuminations provoke passengers to reconsider their relationships to natural phenomena. Tsypin describes the allure of the ocean as “the world of fairy tales, dreams and subconscious. But it is also a fragile and delicate part of nature in danger of pollution and irreversible damage.”18 Battery Park is engrained with the tragedy of September 11th, an indelible reminder of ephemerality. The creators of the carousel establish an aquatic environment for individuals to collectively contemplate frailty alongside amusement. The ride’s movement and lights are

programmable, thus producing a perpetually new and idealized experience for passengers.19 The September 11th Memorial consists of two large chasms flowing with water, a material reminder of loss, and the SeaGlass carousel stands in juxtaposition, a vertical body of water that offers an extraordinary, meditative diversion from the metropolis.


1. “Q&A with Designer George Tsypin,” The Battery Conservancy, http://www.thebattery. org/2009/04/28/q-a-with-designer-georgetsypin/, April 28, 2009. 2. David W. Dunlap, “New York’s New Carousel Puts You in a Whirling School of Mechanized Fish,” The New York Times, August 13, 2015, https://www.nytimes.com/2015/08/14/arts/ design/new-yorks-new-carousel-puts-you-in-awhirling-school-of-mechanized-fish.html. 3. “History of SeaGlass Carousel | The Battery Conservancy,” accessed March 7, 2017, http:// www.thebattery.org/projects/chair-competition/ top-50-designs/. 4. “George Tsypin Opera Factory,” accessed March 7, 2017, http://georgetsypin.com/. 5. Dunlap, “New York’s New Carousel Puts You in a Whirling School of Mechanized Fish.” 6. Burke, A Philosophical Enquiry into the Origin of Our Ideas of the Sublime and Beautiful (Oxford, England: Oxford University Press, 1998), 53-54. 7. “SeaGlass Carousel | A Carousel Like No Other,” accessed March 7, 2017, http://www. seaglasscarousel.nyc/a-carousel-like-no-other/. 8. Immanuel Kant, The Critique of Judgement (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007), 88. 9. Immanuel Kant, The Critique of Judgement (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007), 88. 10. Immanuel Kant, The Critique of Judgement (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007), 88. 16

11. “Q&A with Designer George Tsypin,” The Battery Conservancy, http://www.thebattery. org/2009/04/28/q-a-with-designer-georgetsypin/, April 28, 2009. 12. Ibid. 13. Immanuel Kant, The Critique of Judgement, 94. 14. “SeaGlass Carousel | A Carousel Like No Other,” accessed March 7, 2017, http://www. seaglasscarousel.nyc/a-carousel-like-no-other/. 15. Tony Bennett, “The Exhibitionary Complex,” New Formations, no. 4 (Spring 1988): 81. 16. Tony Bennett, “The Exhibitionary Complex,” 82. 17. Ibid, 96. 18. “Q&A with Designer George Tsypin,” April 28, 2009. 19. Ibid.


Cultivating Design: A Conversation with Cooper Hewitt Curators about Nature Mina Warchavchik Hugerth and Margaret Simons

Nature–Cooper Hewitt Design Triennial (on view from May 10, 2019 to January 20, 2020) will

feature over sixty futuristic works from designers representing a wide range of disciplines, including sculpture, bioengineering, technology and architecture. Complementing contemporary works, the museum will also open a series of exhibitions, Nature by Design, from its permanent collection throughout the year, inviting visitors to discover the various ways in which designers have observed, manipulated, stylized and augmented nature from the sixteenth century until now. Heightening its overall impact, the Triennial will appear on two continents at the same time; Cube design museum co-organized Nature and will simultaneously present it in Kerkrade, Netherlands.


Aguahoja, 2017–19; Neri Oxman (Israeli, active in USA, b. 1976), The Mediated Matter Group, MIT Media Lab (Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA, founded 2010); Chitosan, cellulose, pectin, acetic acid, glycerin, water; Dimensions variable; Courtesy of Mediated Matter, MIT Media Lab

Caitlin Condell

Matilda McQuaid

Emily Orr

Serving as the Capstone Fellows for the exhibitions, we have been assisting Cooper

Hewitt curators by scouring the museum’s collections, uncovering design materials and coordinating important loans in an effort to mount a unique investigation on design’s relationship with nature and its ability to look back at past manifestations while anticipating future practices. In November, 2018, we hosted a wide-ranging conversation with Caitlin Condell (Associate Curator and Head of Drawings, Prints & Graphic Design), Matilda McQuaid, (Deputy Director of Curatorial and Head of Textiles) and Emily Orr (Assistant Curator of Modern and Contemporary American Design) in anticipation of the exhibitions. McQuaid, Condell and Andrea Lipps (Assistant Curator of Contemporary Design) are co-curators of the Triennial while Orr is responsible for two of the collection exhibitions and the overall coordination of the second floor, where they will be presented. Along with the editors of Objective, we are grateful for their insights regarding inspiration, object selection and exhibition design. Margaret Simons: From February 2019 to June 2020, the whole museum will be dedicated to a single theme, nature. How did this idea come about? Matilda McQuaid: It started years ago. Cara McCarty, Cooper Hewitt Director of Curatorial, wanted to do a show about nature and it became clear that we should fold it into the Triennial, representing contemporary design. We then decided that it would be great to turn the whole museum over to nature since our collection so heavily includes nature subjects. It’s also the timeliness of thinking about our planet. We see these horrible reports about what is happening to our planet, and the urgency of the situation needed to be focused upon. Emily Orr: These contemporary concerns with the environment are also in conversation with distinct groups of nature-related objects in the permanent collection that curators would like to highlight. While the Triennial curators are going out and seeking objects to fit the theme, curators here have been digging into our permanent collection to make discoveries. For instance, katagami (Japanese paper stencils for use in decorating textiles) had long been objects the curators wanted to display, so this kind of idea rose to the top when we were thinking about nature as an overall topic. Therefore, some objects will be on view for the first time, or for the first time in a long time, offering visitors a new lens with which to view the holdings of the curatorial departments and the library.


MM: Nature is something that has been inspirational over the centuries, so the secondfloor exhibitions give a foundation to the Triennial. And Cooper Hewitt is unique in the manner that curators work together. It is very rare not to have walls or silos in a museum, and we are always working together and integrating collections. Right: Choreography of Life, 2018; Charles Reilly (New Zealander, b. 1983), Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering, Harvard University (Boston, Massachusetts, USA, founded 2009); Courtesy of Charles Reillyly



EO: It also speaks to the museum’s collecting practices. We often have designers represented across departments. Curators work on object labels across media, with permission, and we dig into one another’s collections. Mina Hugerth: Because of this overarching theme, the second floor will have a series of exhibitions about nature during the next year. When we include the Triennial exhibition, this number goes up to eight simultaneous shows about nature, and we know curators have been debating what is the best way to tell a cohesive story to visitors. What are your major concerns and expectations? EO: The curators put forward these distinct ideas, and the exhibition and graphic designers help to guide the visitors and to make the narrative feel cohesive. We do know though that we can't control exactly what the visitor will do, and they will navigate through the museum as they see fit and interpret it as they see fit, no matter how hard we try! MM: It is always a challenge, and it is highlighted now because the whole museum is going to be devoted to nature. EO: We as curators are also always contending with the architecture of the museum itself, particularly the way that the first and the second floors are set up as segmented experiences in the rooms of the historic mansion. We do not want to fight against that layout; we have to work with it, and that is a challenge in and of itself. MS: For the Triennial, Cooper Hewitt is working with the Cube design museum in the Netherlands to co-curate the exhibition. Could you discuss the motivation to embark on the challenge of simultaneously opening Nature across two museums? MM: I was concerned, but I am pleasantly surprised. We were wary of putting the designers in such a situation because it means they have to provide two of everything. In many cases, we are dealing with concepts or prototypes, so that could be a burden on them. It has not been uncomplicated, because each institution has their checklist, but we started early enough, and I think that is the key thing. Hopefully, we will have an even bigger impact: Cooper Hewitt's name is going to be spread across Europe and the United States at the same time, and that is a good thing. MH: In Botanical Lessons, the models are on loan from the National Museum of American History, and the books come from the Smithsonian Libraries. What sparked Cooper Hewitt´s interest in these pieces and how does the cooperation among multiple Smithsonian institutions work? MM: The interest in the botanical models began when Cara and I were working on the Left: Rosa canina Model; R. Brendel & Co. (Berlin, Germany); 1875-1898; wood, papier-mâché, cardboard, plaster, string, cloth, thread, paint, and shellac varnish; Smithsonian's National Museum of American History


Tools: Extending our Reach exhibition for the reopening of Cooper Hewitt, and it was a panSmithsonian show. We went to Washington, D.C. monthly to meet with curators and look at collections. When we were at the National Museum of American History, we saw these amazing models, so we kept them in mind for a future show. EO: And having the gallery space that we do to dedicate to models and prototypes, these botanical models seemed like a wonderful fit. MM: It is perfect; it already looks like a terrarium. EO: And the library is important to what we all do here. It is an amazing resource with such great rich, primary material to put on view alongside the objects. Periodicals, ephemera, rare books and other library materials really help to support a lot of the curators’ narratives and clarify the viewers’ understanding and context for design. MS: With the long lead time to produce the Triennial, have certain events occurred that might shift the perception of certain objects in the exhibition, relative to what you originally thought? Caitlin Condell: About a year and a half before the exhibition, we visited labs to meet scientists who were collaborating with designers or using design thinking as part of their process. In some cases, the pace of experimentation has been rapid, facilitating exciting exhibition possibilities. In others, projects have not evolved as quickly as we might have hoped. As a result, the exhibition includes a mix of completed objects and emerging concepts still in development. MM: When we were looking at projects early on, we might have discovered something, but now it has been out there, and it is no longer new within the design community. We still feel like it is compelling enough to be in the show, however, and I think for the public, most things will be relatively new. MH: Both the Triennial and collection highlight designers with scientific backgrounds, from Amy Congdon, Ramille Shah and Conor Walsh in the Triennial to William Morris, Christopher Dresser and Emile GallÊ in the collection. Why do you think that is? Do you think there is a comparison between what designers were doing then and now? MM: Bio-inspired design has been around for a long time, so it is not surprising that there would be overlap or designers who share a love of nature or have a scientific background. EO: Historically, in much of the nineteenth-century material that we will see on the second floor, a lot of the intermingling between design and nature has to do with design education, how designers were taught to look at nature directly as a resource and then interpret it in various ways. You asked particularly about Morris, and he was intent on controlling natural forms and stylizing them, encapsulating that organic mentality but also imposing order on it. Then we have someone like Dresser, who sees nature as following an underlying order and sticking to a structure that can be adapted for design objects. 23

Chrysanthemum Kettle on Stand, 1891–1902; Manufactured by Tiffany and Co.; USA; silver, ivory; Gift of Mrs. Roswell Miller; Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum, 1978-6-2-a/d; Photo: Matt Flynn © Smithsonian Institution

Finally, Gallé starts a horticultural society in Nancy, France, where he grew up, and actually designed the garden on his family estate and sketched from life. So designers interact with nature on a variety of different levels in their practice. Cultural and philosophical context at the time also impacts designers’ interpretations of nature. These discourses between design and nature and education and science have been going on for centuries and continue to take shape, so I think these intersections are some of the major connections between the three floors. 24

MH: Building on that, could you comment on the importance of nature— considering the emergence of new industrial technologies, urban landscapes and social classes—as it has influenced design? EO: Design at different moments has considered nature as a kind of democratic utopian space and place that can be accessed and appreciated by all. Nature represents beauty and leisure, but at the same time, it is also something that needs to be cared for, and I think that is where the Triennial links in. Nature requires human care. MM: In the Triennial, it is this idea that we are part of nature; it is not man and nature. We are nature and we want to feature that collaborative aspect of it. Stencil: Waves, Fishing Nets, and Pine Leaves (Japan); Late 19th–early 20th century; Mulberry paper (kōzo washi) treated with fermented persimmon juice (kakishibu), and silk threads (itoire); Museum purchase through gift of Norvin Hewitt Green; Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum, 1946-104-6; Photo: Matt Flynn © Smithsonian Institution


EO: Thinking about the second and third floors, this realization that we’ve come to now, that we are a part of nature, is really interesting. On the second floor, there is probably more of a divide between design and nature that is being actively worked out and debated. MM: I think it depends on where it is historically because there have also been periods where man wants to dominate nature. Now there is this idea that one affects the other; we are intrinsically tied together. Whatever we do affects nature; whatever happens in nature affects us. It is more a mutual collaboration. MS: Can you offer an example of a project in the Triennial that you think has the potential to change future design practice? CC: We are featuring two projects that generate light without electricity. It is a radical notion to think that nature has the potential to be our light source. One project is nanobionic plants, which are being conceived in a lab at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The Strano Lab infuses watercress plants with an enzyme that is similar to the enzyme found in fireflies, which produces a glow. The implication is that, to maintain your light source, you have to maintain a natural organism. Independent designer Teresa van Dongen is exploring a similar relationship through a different scientific approach. She has designed lamps that generate light through electroactive chemical bacteria. They emit electrons that provide light and require feeding to provide the light source. These projects remain small-scale now, but the long-term implications are that we might be able to live in a post-electric world. MM: The subject of bacteria is often thought of as very hands-off and dangerous or negative. CC: There is a real fear of bacteria for many. MM: There is a lot of great bacteria and good ways in which they can be harnessed. Bacteria is such an unusual material and process in which designers are now working. Looking at the future, I think we are going to be seeing bacteria used in many other ways. MH: Looking back to the nineteenth century, the Brendel models were used for education. Do you see a possible parallel with what is happening now with bacteria? Will bacterial education make its way into the design curriculum? CC: Bacteria and other natural materials have existed for all of human history, but an understanding that they can be used in design is relatively recent. A wider array of natural materials is definitely becoming part of design education. I see many design students starting their approach to practice by mimicking things that happen in biology or looking at biological materials as a medium. For a long time, there was a common understanding that successful design kept bacteria away from us. Our changing awareness of bacteria has led designers to see it as a material meant to be encouraged. 26

Tranceflora, 2015–19; Sputniko! (Hiromi Ozaki) (Japanese, b. 1985) and Masaya Kushino (Japanese, b. 1982), Another Farm (Tokyo, Japan, founded 2018), in collaboration with National Agricultural and Research Organization (NARO) (Tsukuba, Ibaraki Prefecture, Japan, founded 2006) and Hosoo (Kyoto, Japan, founded 1688); Glowing transgenic silk; Courtesy of the designer; Photo credit: So Morimoto

MS: Many of the exhibits in the Triennial, such as Origami Membrane and Choreography of Life, demonstrate the most recent advancements in science. Curatorially, how do you address complex concepts similar to these to ensure your audience comprehends? MM: Sometimes analogies help regarding understanding concepts. The idea is that if we as curators understand it (as we do not have science backgrounds), we can get the concept across. Our main goal is to address the reason why this project is here in a design museum. CC: The hope is that we can provide a basis for understanding both the background of a project and the broader potential implications that the project raises. We hope that people will walk away from the exhibition with the tools and resources to learn more. MS: On the second floor, visitors have the Immersion Room, which will have content related to the collection exhibitions. The Triennial will have works like Curiosity Cloud. What is the Cooper Hewitt’s philosophy about incorporating immersive experiences in exhibitions? MM: It is important to offer a variety of experiences for the museum visitor. For each of these, there is a different kind of experience. As you walk through Curiosity Cloud, sensors will react to movement and insects will be flying around in glass orbs and lighting up. It is really going to pique curiosity and highlight the importance of observation and looking 27

around at our world. I think people like to experience something, rather than just have a passive relationship with the objects. EO: To Matilda’s point about observation, one of the things that interests me is this idea of scale. For instance, on the second floor, the botanical models will allow us to look at nature at this microscopic scale with our naked eye. Then we will walk into the Teak Room and see Church’s oil sketches of the icebergs, which position us as very small in relation to nature. And immersive wall coverings, also on the second floor, envelop the visitor in nature. So there will be moments that require close looking at nature and others when you’ll feel surrounded by nature. MH: Has the process of completing the nature-inspired exhibition generated ideas for future exhibitions that relate to the themes being brought to light, or with the same strategy of devoting the entire museum to a single theme? EO: It has been a unique and rewarding experience to have every curator working on the same thematic project in some way. MM: Regarding the collection shows, we could do round after round on the theme of nature. It is a rare thing to devote an entire museum over to one theme. I do not think we will do it again anytime soon!

Drawing, Floating Icebergs Under Cloudy Skies, 1859; Frederic Edwin Church (American, 1826–1900) Brush and oil, graphite on paperboard 30.5 × 50.8 cm (12 × 20 in.) Gift of Louis P. Church, 1917-4-305-a; Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum; Photo: Matt Flynn © Smithsonian Institution


Michelle Erickson and Roberto Lugo

Pottery Is Political Nick Stagliano

are ceramicists whose work responds to contemporary politics and society while relying on the medium’s historical traditions. In Erickson’s case, she uses the same techniques employed by potters in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries but infuses her work with modern commentary. Lugo adopts unmistakably traditional forms, such as urns, vases, and teapots, but he covers them with the faces of African Americans—Barack Obama, Martin Luther King, Jr., Frederick Douglass, and Whitney Houston, among others. Two centuries ago, the only black faces to appear on pottery were slaves, servants, or performers in blackface. Erickson and Lugo both have deep knowledge and respect for the history of their profession, but they are not afraid to shatter the authority of precedent to create profoundly relevant work.

Fig. 1. Century Vase, ca. 1876; Designed by Karl L. H. Müller; Manufactured by Union Porcelain Works; porcelain; Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Franklin Chace; The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 69.194.1


Roberto Lugo was born in Philadelphia

in 1981, the third child of his 21-year-old mother.1 On an elementary-school fieldtrip to a prison, a teacher identified Lugo— who never swore and went to church every day with his preacher father—as one of the two troublemakers in the class. A prison guard took Lugo into a cell and told him, “This is where you’re going to end up.” It was Lugo’s first experience being treated differently because of his race.2 A self-described ghetto potter, Lugo’s earliest artistic medium was graffiti, which continues to feature in his work. Not until he was 25 years old did he enroll in art classes and begin to make pottery, which he pursued through a BFA at the Kansas City Art Institute and an MFA at Pennsylvania State University.3

Lugo is perhaps best known for his

reinterpretations of the Century Vase,

created in 1876 at Union Porcelain Works in Brooklyn, New York, on the occasion of the American centennial. Designed by Karl Müller, the Century Vase’s various decorative elements share a commonality: their overt and undeniable celebration of American history. Relief panels of historical scenes surround the vase, which is adorned with bison heads and portraits of George Washington (Fig. 1). One of Lugo’s versions of the vase is titled A Century of Black Lives Mattering; it is covered with the faces not of Founding Fathers but of African American men who were murdered by white police officers: Trayvon Martin, Eric Garner, Philando Castile, and Alton Sterling (Fig. 2). At the bottom of the vase, in relief, are nooses, referencing the history of hangings of African Americans. Around the neck of the vase is painted “Black Lives Still Matter.” “I am very much interested in having these lives memorialized,” Lugo

Fig. 2. Roberto Lugo, A Century of Black Lives Mattering, 2016; porcelain, china paint, luster; image by KeneK Photography courtesy of Wexler Gallery


Fig. 3. Pot-pourri à vaisseau, 1757–58; Modeled by Jean-Claude Duplessis; Manufactured by Sèvres Porcelain Manufactory; soft-paste porcelain; Gift of Samuel H. Kress Foundation; The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 58.75.89a,b

says.4 Another of his remixed Century Vases includes the faces of Sojourner Truth, Cornel West, and Frederick Douglass alongside busts of George Washington and Theodore Roosevelt with silver chains—perhaps slave manacles— around their necks.5

Lugo has a vast knowledge of ceramic


history. In one piece, he adopts the style of fifteenth-century Italian sculptors Andrea and Luca Della Robbia; in another, he references a celebrated form made in the

eighteenth century at the Sèvres Porcelain Manufactory. Lugo’s version of the Sèvres pot-pourri à vaisseau (potpourri in the shape of a ship), originals of which were owned by Madame de Pompadour, features the hold of a slave ship packed with bodies (Figs. 3-4). For his play on Viktor Schreckengost’s Jazz Bowl, Lugo employs the same blue and black scheme to depict an urban environment, but he includes a boom box and cassette tapes and calls his version Hip Hop Bowl.

Fig. 4. Roberto Lugo, Slave Ship Potpourri Boat, 2017; porcelain, china paint, luster; The Walters Art Museum; image by KeneK Photography courtesy of Wexler Gallery

Lugo also adopts traditional forms used

by Chinese potters, particularly vases and urns. In one tall, lidded vase, Lugo surrounds portraits of Colin Kaepernick and the abolitionist John Brown with abundant swathes of different repeating geometric designs. The overall effect is not unlike that on Chinese porcelains decorated in the tobacco leaf style. On one vessel in the typical Chinese ginger jar shape, Lugo depicts Frederick Douglass and Arthur Ashe (the decorated African American

tennis player) with their hair and clothes painted with vibrant florals in a manner evocative of Kehinde Wiley’s paintings. Lugo’s work sells for tens of thousands of dollars. He admits to some discomfort with the idea of profiting off of other people’s experiences. He argues, however, that he is trying to “pay homage to those lives that have been lost, and keep the conversation going after it’s not on the news and not right in your face.”6 Similarly, 32

Fig. 5. Pickle Stand, 1770–72; Made by Gousse Bonnin and George Anthony Morris, American China Manufactory; soft-paste porcelain; Friends of the American Wing Fund; The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1990.19

Lugo’s explanation for his use of traditional forms, and working in porcelain, is, “I put Mike Brown and Trayvon Martin on a pot. Their faces will be on a pot for thousands of years, even when people have forgotten. My role in the new civil rights movement is keeping the conversation going long after it’s left the news.”7

Another contemporary ceramicist strongly

influenced by and making use of historical antecedents is Michelle Erickson. Erickson is probably best known for her recreation of the Bonnin and Morris pickle stand, also known as a sweetmeat dish, used for the display of candied fruits and nuts and one of the most recognizable products of early American porcelain manufacture (Fig. 5). On Erickson’s version, the interiors of the three scallop shells are painted with the words “Made In China,” referring both 33

to the Chinese origins of porcelain and to the present-day ubiquity of manufactured products originating from China (Fig. 6). More than just artistic reinvention, Erickson’s pickle stand is rooted in her deep knowledge of ceramic history and an understanding of eighteenth-century porcelain manufacturing techniques, which she relies on for her adaptations. “Made In China” also appears on the interior of a porcelain chamber pot Erickson made titled Republican Potty. On one side of the exterior, Donald Trump takes the place of William Hogarth’s John Wilkes, a “shameless self-promoter.”8 Behind Trump is the Confederate flag. On the other side of the chamber pot is Paul Revere’s The Able Doctor—depicting the violation of America—with the subbed-in faces of members of the GOP (e.g.,

John Boehner, Mitch McConnell, Wayne LaPierre, chairman of the NRA holding an assault rifle, and Chief Justice John Roberts) underneath the words “The Party’s Over.” Erickson has used the same two images on a porcelain leech jar.

Erickson earned a BFA from the College

of William and Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia, in 1982. Williamsburg’s deep history and culture of archaeological excavation influenced Erickson, who began her college career as a painting major and switched to ceramics after encountering the College’s collections. She calls herself an experimental archaeologist, a term that means investigating remnants of the past, such as architectural structures, agriculture, or ceramics in Erickson’s case. She attempts to understand the historical processes that become the archaeological record and even to reproduce them using authentic, original


Erickson’s work as a ceramicist is grounded

in a deep understanding of historical ceramics, particularly eighteenth- and nineteenth-century American techniques. Drawing on this knowledge, she has recreated marbled slipware bowls, ring bottles, and squirrel bottles (Fig. 7). Squirrel bottles were made in Salem, North Carolina, by Moravian (from outside of Dresden, Germany) potters as early as 1803. Two forms of the squirrel bottle were made: one taller (about 8.5 inches) with a straight back and the other slightly shorter (about 6.75 inches) with a curved figure. The straight-backed example is most common, and squirrel bottles survive in greater numbers than bottles featuring any other animals (turtles, owls, fish)—perhaps owing to the squirrel’s popularity as a pet in the early to mid-nineteenth century.11

Fig. 6. Michelle Erickson, American Pickle, 2008; slipcast, sprig-molded, and hand-built porcelain; The Reeves Collection, Washington & Lee University; photo by Gavin Ashworth courtesy of Michelle Erickson


Fig. 7. Bottle, ca. 1790–1805; made in Salem, North Carolina; earthenware; Purchase, Dr. and Mrs. Burton P. Fabricand Gift; The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1991.205

Erickson meticulously studied a surviving mold for a squirrel bottle and produced her own plaster mold with traditional techniques.12 She placed a squirrel-sized assault rifle in the rodent’s tiny hands and named her piece 2nd Amendment Squirrel. A pair of Erickson’s squirrel bottles hold the male and female gender symbols and have the rainbow flag painted on their heads (Fig. 8). The work is titled HB2 Squirrels; HB2 was the name of the North Carolina law forbidding transgender people from using the bathroom corresponding to their gender identities.

Erickson’s reinterpretation of the eighteenth-century Meissen Monkey Band provided an opportunity to demonstrate her skills as a modeler of clay. A form of singerie, artistic depictions of monkeys engaged in human activities, Erickson’s Monkey Band features George W. Bush and members of his presidential administration 35

as the musicians.13 The figures are clearly labeled Condé, Dick, Rummy, and G.W., and we see Bush literally tooting his own horn.

Roberto Lugo and Michelle Erickson are far from the only contemporary ceramicists using their work to send a message or make a point—politically, socially, or otherwise. They are unique in their extraordinary knowledge of historical ceramic traditions and techniques. Their use of these historically significant forms lends enormous symbolic weight to the politically charged and challenging messages contained within their work.

Fig. 8. Michelle Erickson, HB2 Squirrels, 2016; indigenous clay, copper green glaze, press-molded and hand-built; photo by Robert Hunter courtesy of Michelle Erickson


1. Roberto Lugo, “About,” Roberto Lugo Studio, accessed 26 April 2018, http:// robertolugostudio.com/about. 2. Rob Goyanes, “This Artist Is Making Ceramics to Honor People of Color, from Obama to Biggie,” Artsy, 15 May 2017, https:// www.artsy.net/article/artsy-editorial-artistmaking-ceramics-honor-people-color-obamabiggie. 3. Ibid. 4. As quoted in Sarah Archer, “Ceramic Vases that Contain All the Beauty and Ugliness of US History,” Hyperallergic, 8 June 2016, https:// hyperallergic.com/304153/ceramic-vasesthat-contain-all-the-beauty-and-ugliness-of-ushistory/. 5. Ibid. 6. Rob Goyanes, “This Artist…” 7. Kelsey McKinney, “Meet Roberto Lugo, the ceramicist changing the politics of clay,” Splinter, 8 August 2016, https://splinternews.com/ meet-roberto-lugo-the-ceramicist-changing-thepolitics-1793861429.

8. Michelle Erickson, “The Party’s Over and Trump Esq.,” Michelle Erickson Ceramics, accessed 26 April 2018, http://www.michelleericksonceramics. com/?action=trumped-up-china. 9. Lauren Oyler, “Feminist Ceramicist Michelle Erickson Makes Pottery Political,” Vice, 14 August 2015, https://broadly.vice.com/en_us/ article/qkg9jp/feminist-ceramicist-michelleerickson-makes-pottery-political. 10. Brandon Keim, “Experimental Archaeologists Test Past By Making It Real,” Wired, 19 July 2011, https://www.wired. com/2011/07/experimental-archaeology/. 11. Michelle Erickson, Robert Hunter, and Caroline M. Hannah, “Making a Moravian Squirrel Bottle,” Ceramics in America (2009): 201; “Squirrel Bottle,” MESDA Collection Website, accessed 26 April 2018, http://mesda.org/item/ collections/squirrel-bottle/10255/. 12. Erickson, Hunter, and Hannah, “Making…” 13. “Monkey Band,” RISD, accessed 26 April 2018, https://risdmuseum.org/art_design/ objects/636_the_monkey_band_affenkapelle 36

A Design for an Ornamental Garden by André and Paul Vera Nicholas de Godoy Lopes of over In 1991, Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum bought a collection 1


forty drawings by Paul and André Vera from the dealer Yu Chee Chong. Prior to this purchase, the museum had almost no material from these two designer brothers, who are considered among the most influential voices in French Art Deco garden design. The majority of the acquired drawings are connected to two publications on garden design theory, Le Nouveau Jardin (1912) and Les Jardins (1919), both written by André and illustrated by Paul. These two works laid out the Veras’ unique garden aesthetic, which fused a burgeoning Modernist style with the late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century resurrection of the French formal garden tradition. This essay focuses on three drawings in the Cooper Hewitt collection by the Vera brothers that feature the same design (Figs. 1-3). These drawings, dated to the years between the publication of the Veras’ books, do not correspond with any of the illustrations contained in those volumes. They also predate the conception and construction of any gardens actually created by the brothers. However, there are connections between the three drawings in question and others created to illustrate Les Jardins and to be displayed at a 1913 exhibition on garden design by the French workshop L’Atelier Français.

space, are white benches, and in the center a raised fountain. In two of the drawings, there is in the fountain a statue of a woman pouring water from a jug over her shoulder (Figs. 1 and 2). Openings in the hedge allow entry into the central space. The short pathway to the main entrance is flanked Furthermore, the unusual design in these by two trellised half-dome gloriettes, each drawings serves as an interesting example erected over what seems like a stone statue. of André and Paul’s theory of garden design, an idiosyncratic synthesis of various One drawing shows two trees placed at the beginning of this entrance (Fig. 2). In the conceptions of the formal garden that other two drawings, the trees have been developed throughout the form’s history. replaced by what could be hedges or short stone posts. Four tall, dark pillars surround André and Paul Vera’s connection with garden design lasted several decades. Apart the central court marking the corners of a square. The design is completed by a from the publications mentioned above, rectangular pathway that surrounds the André wrote several essays on the subject and a book, L’Homme et le jardin, in 1950. He octagonal court. A white fence borders its outer edge, beyond which seems to be a wall also created two gardens in collaboration or woods. with his brother, including the one on their property La Thebaïde, which they Two of the drawings have a roughness bought as their permanent residence in that indicates they were likely made while 1920. Paul’s work as a garden designer the design was still being finalized (Figs. 2 was more prolific. He would construct eighteen examples both by himself and in and 3). In both, the garden is inscribed in a square in one corner of the page, while the collaboration with André or the architect Jean-Charles Moreaux between 1920 and rest is filled with sketches of details such as 1952.2 These gardens, simple and strongly the gloriettes, the octagonal courts, and the pillar-shaped fountains. It appears that these geometric, reflected modern ideas of efficiency, abstraction, rationalism, and the drawings were organized intentionally so balance of individualism and collectivism. that the author, who could have been either These Modernist concepts were integrated André or Paul, would have space to jot notes and sketch out details of the gardens with ideals of control, meditation, and spatial interiority that informed the design separately. In one drawing, there is a sketch of two people drinking from a pillar-fountain of many of the oldest examples of the (Fig. 2). Near this drawing is a series of formal garden. This mixture of old and bulleted notes written in a disjointed manner new ideologies is readily apparent in the that read “basin-tub, statue running with design developed in the Cooper Hewitt water,” and “channels for drinking under a drawings. dais of white trellis.” This drawing is unique The garden in each of the three drawings among the three because it is the only one is small and rectangular with a large central to use watercolor—in the main image of the area surrounded by a low octagonal hedge garden—and is the only one to present the garden from an isometric view. The second wall. Along this wall, on the inside of the drawing uses a frontal bird’s-eye view and is Fig. 1. André and Paul Vera, Design for Garden Featuring Octagonal Fountain with Sculpture, Flanked by Hemispherical Trellises, 1912–14, pen and black ink, brush and white gouache, black crayon, graphite on cream tracing paper, 19.7 x 25.4 cm (7 3/4 x 10 in.) Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum, New York, 1991-58-30; Photo: Matt Flynn © Smithsonian Institution


Fig. 2. André and Paul Vera, Studies for Ornamental Garden with Fountain and Sculpture, 1912-1919, Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum, New York, 1991-58-28; Photo: Matt Flynn © Smithsonian Institution

completely monochrome, though the media is otherwise very similar; pen, black ink, gouache, crayon, and graphite are used (Fig. 3). The inscription on this drawing says “basin in the form of a tube with a shower jet” and “statue of a spring” in graphite above the main design, and below, in ink, “rest well-sheltered, a bit of softness to the forms.”

The first drawing, though it uses the same

media, is by far the most polished of the three (Fig. 1). Unlike the rough sketchiness of the other two drawings, it has the finish of a presentation drawing, with the entire page filled by an image of the garden from a frontal bird’s-eye view. It clarifies many of the details that are still rough in the previous iterations of the designs. For instance, the 39

black pillars in the second drawing clearly become trees, while the objects under the half-dome trellises become the pillar fountains seen in the bottom left of the second drawing. The design in this first drawing also synthesizes elements seen in the other two. For instance, the trees at the entrance of the garden in the second drawing are replaced in the first and third with hedges or stone blocks, and the white trellis of the second drawing disappears in the other two. Two elements are missing in the third drawing that are found in the first and second. One is the sculpture in the center fountain, and the second are the trellis arches over the gaps in the hedge walls. Overall, the layout of the garden in all three drawings remains similar. Based on a geometrical arrangement of a circle within an octagon within a square, and notable for its use of pure forms and clean lines, the general design represents the Veras’ long obsession with the jardin régulier, the formal or architectural garden.

The brothers’ interest in creating gardens

was quite unusual in that neither had a background in garden design nor received any training in landscape architecture and engineering. Paul was trained as an artist and designer at the Académie Ranson, the Académie de Julian, and the École des Beaux-Arts.3 He studied under the painters Maurice Denis and Paul Sérusier and was influenced by such artists as Paul Cézanne, Wassily Kandinsky, and the Fauves. Developing a large number of artistic friendships, he was invited to participate in the second Der Blaue Reiter exhibition in 1912 and exhibited paintings and designs at the Salon d’Automne multiple times beginning in 1904.4 Paul also, produced a prolific body of designs and worked for Sèvres as well as the tapestry centers of Gobelins, Aubusson,

and Beauvais.5 André, in contrast, had no formal training in the arts and pursued a career as an author and theoretician.6

Both André and Paul became involved in

the short-lived L’Atelier Français formed by Louis Süe and André Mare, among others, in 1912. Inspired by precedents such as the Wiener Werkstätte, the atelier stressed the importance of artists, architects, and designers working together to create unified interiors based on architectural principles.7 Paul designed numerous objects for the group, including upholstery for the infamous Maison Cubiste exhibited at the 1912 Salon d’Automne. André wrote the group’s manifesto, Le Nouveau Style, the same year.8 In it, he called for a rejection of what he believed was the sentimental and selfindulgent artifice of Art Nouveau design.9 André accused designers in the previous decades of letting their obsession with visual tricks, dazzling effects, idiosyncratic artistic touches, and appeals to the emotions lead to an art that was superficial in its beauty and unable to appeal to the rational mind. He also criticized Art Nouveau for breaking from any sort of national tradition, becoming as a result not only anachronistic, but decidedly unFrench.10 André called for the development of a new style that would be:

An art descriptive of sentiments and

reasonings rather than gestures and objects, and that, in order to be penetrated, demands… a spirit attentive, delicate, and astute… This return to intelligence will favor thus an art of arrangement eminently architectural… The principal effort will consist of making interest reside in the work, in the beauty of the material, and the justness of the proportions. Even more, for the same reason that the spirit

delights itself in generalities, furniture will be constructed to respond to general desires… It will be made for a society, rather than individuals.11

Several of the ideas expressed in this

quote are central to the Veras’ design philosophy, including an aesthetic based on reason and simplicity, the primacy of architecture as the art of order, and the rejection of idiosyncrasy in favor of the conscious attempt to create a shared artistic style among craftspeople. These ideas were important to L’Atelier Français and the later Compagnie des Art Français, formed in 1919 by Süe and Mare, which also involved the Veras.12 In 1918, André wrote another essay, “La Doctrine décorative de demain” which fleshed out several ideas hinted at in “Le Nouveau Style.”13 In this essay, written in reaction to World War I, he eagerly called upon craftsmen, designers, and artists to become a symbol of hope and unity for the war-torn country. He advocated the formation of brotherhoods and workshops where designers and artists would create together and develop a general style informed by tradition that would reconnect the country to its glorious past.1 This desire to unify society through a neo-traditional style is central to the Veras’ work.

The Veras first applied their general design

philosophy to garden design in Le Nouveau Jardin. Published in 1912, it included over seventy woodblock illustrations by Paul, thirty-five of which were full-page, featuring both plans and garden details. This publication was followed after the war by Les Jardins, with over sixty illustrations by Paul of which twenty-four were full-page. It is possible that Cooper Hewitt’s drawings, though


ultimately unused, could have been conceived as illustrations for this later publication. The skewed, almost isometric view of the second drawing can be seen in several illustrations in Les Jardins. Furthermore, the bird’s-eye viewpoint of the other two drawings is only seen in the Veras’ work in three illustrations for this publication. Three drawings in Cooper Hewitt’s collection also feature a bird’s-eye view, two of which are for an unused title page for Les Jardins (Fig. 4). The use of black crayon on these three drawings is unusual as well. The only other drawing to use this medium among the Veras’ work in Cooper Hewitt is a preparatory drawing for one of the illustrations in the “Jardin au Soleil”— or the “Garden in the Sun”—section in Les Jardins (Fig. 5).

However, the polish of the first drawing is

very unusual compared with the simplified and geometricized style seen in Paul’s illustrations for Les Jardins. This raises the possibility that the three works are connected to a small collection of drawings by the draftsman Eugène Verdeau, who worked with the Veras on Les Jardins, called Vues de jardins d’André Vera.15 One of these drawings was transformed by Paul Vera into a painting for the 1913 L’Art du jardin exhibition held by L’Atelier Français. The exhibition was based on an idea by André, whose Le Nouveau Jardin had just been published.16 The mural-size painting, which depicted a garden design by André, was displayed in a gloriette erected for the event.17 There are undeniable similarities between the painting and the third drawing of the ornamental garden, including the point of view, the focus on sculpture, the It is likely, then, that this design was conceived as an illustration for a section of hedge walls, and the half-moon benches. the “Garden in the Sun.” This assumption The polish of the drawing also suggests it is supported in two ways. First, the garden was a study for a painting. However, the design in the drawings is probably not connection is not perfect. The design does meant to be seen as complete. None of the not exactly match the painting and, perhaps other small gardens illustrated in the Veras’ more importantly, none of the three publications or constructed by them later drawings in the museum’s collection seem to have any similarity to this design. There are have been drafted by Verdeau. Even so, with only two other gardens that can be found such similar stylistic aspects shared by the in the Veras’ work that use an octagonal design and the one seen in the exhibition, enclosure. One is depicted in another the date of creation for the three drawings drawing in Cooper Hewitt’s collection, and could be narrowed to around 1913, the the second is their “Garden in the Sun” same time that the first of the woodcuts seen in Les Jardins (Fig. 4). In that design for Les Jardins were being made. The visual there are several small enclosures that jut similarities also suggest the drawings could into the wilderness. One has a basic layout have been studies for both the painting in very similar to what is seen in the drawings, the exhibition and an illustration in Les with a circular object within an octagonal Jardins. room introduced by a path bordered with half-moon areas. It is therefore possible that Regardless of these drawings’ purposes, the drawings were part of the development their most interesting aspect is the way they for an unused illustration of that section of the garden. 41

Fig. 3. André and Paul Vera, Three Studies: Ornamental Enclosed Garden with Four Evergreen Trees Around a Fountain; Circular Fountain; Trellis Niche and Fountain, 1912–19, Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum, New York, Museum purchase from Smithsonian Institution Collections Acquisition Program Fund, 1991-5829; Photo: Matt Flynn © Smithsonian Institution

illustrate the Veras’ complex relationship with the French formal garden tradition. The Veras embraced the formal garden, the jardin régulier, in part because of their love of the seventeenth century. They adored the seventeenth-century landscape architect André Le Nôtre, who most famously designed Vaux-le-Vicomte and the west and north gardens of Versailles. The Veras’ love of this garden type, with its use of parterres, straight alleys, and broad vistas, went hand-in-hand with their rejection of the jardin paysager, the “landscape garden,” popular in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries and seen, for example, in the great French public park the Bois du Boulogne. In fact, André would say, “The question of whether your garden must be régulier or paysager is not worth posing anymore: it must be régulier.”18 To the Veras, the jardin régulier was pleasing to the eye and to the

illustrate the Veras’ complex relationship much like Art Nouveau design, was too focused on imitating nature and creating superficial sensory effects, making them gardens not for intellectuals but for pleasure-seekers and sentimentalists. Even worse, the jardin paysager was considered a British import and therefore an innately foreign concept, whereas the jardin régulier had a long national tradition.19

For the Veras, the gardens Le Nôtre

designed for Versailles were the greatest expression of a uniquely French garden aesthetic largely ignored since the beginning of the Second Republic.20 The Veras deemed the adoption of Le Nôtre’s approach to garden design not only necessary in order to resurrect national tradition, but also inevitable as the modern age for them became more and more ideologically identical to the 42

seventeenth century. In “Le Nouveau Style,” André names Le Nôtre among other individuals of the period whose work provided the perfect inspiration for the development of the new style. He asks: “Does it [the seventeenth century] not give you through its works a complete satisfaction to the current rationalist tendencies of our taste?”21 In Les Jardins, he would say, “Whatever the work by Le Nôtre that we examine, we draw from it always the same impressions and the same joys. Our Age has not encountered any other agreement; the dispositions are identical in terms of the social and moral reasonings unique to the epoch.” 22

It was largely the French father-and-son

team of Henri and Achille Duchêne who were responsible for both resurrecting interest in the formal garden in the 1890s and reinterpreting Le Nôtre’s work within a more Modernist framework. Achille was responsible for renovating several seventeenth-century gardens, including Vaux-le-Vicomte. In his writings, he


idealized Le Nôtre’s work as the perfect expression of a rationalist, architectural approach to the garden.23 Working from the Duchênes’ interpretation of his work, the Veras further conceived of Le Nôtre’s gardens as representative of garden design taken to its most abstract and formalized extreme. “We are delighted by Versailles,” André writes in Les Jardins, “and appreciate the expression of a firm will through the neatness of the contrasts: not only are the voids and wholes cleanly divided, but the promenades are large, the sections of land are flat, the forms of verdure are gathered together… all has ceded and the sentiment comes to us of being masters of the terrain far away and around us.”24 Later he writes, “A Le Nôtre garden is a development by progression, division, transition, and conjunction,” transforming the garden into a discourse Fig. 4. André and Paul Vera, View of a Walled Octagonal Garden with Evergreen Trees, 1912–19, brush and gouache, ink on cream tracing paper, 34.4 x 53.4 cm (13 9/16 x 21 in.), Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum, New York, Museum purchase from Smithsonian Institution Collections Acquisition Program Fund, 1991-58-23; Photo: Matt Flynn © Smithsonian Institution

among the various pure forms that compose it.25

For André and Paul, the formal garden

epitomized the garden as a purely visual creation.26 In their designs, alleys, pathways, and terraces formed geometric parterres that created a symmetrical arrangement and a pleasing vista. Trees and hedges were almost invariably trimmed into pure shapes like cubes, cones, and spheres. Lawns were perfectly cut. Flower beds were used to add notes of color to the visual compositions— André likened his use of flower boxes to jewelers employing stones in a necklace or painters arranging brushstrokes in a painting.27 Sculpture and wall reliefs were placed on strategic points at the end of vistas and alleys, centered in courts, or placed against walls in niches. As in a Le Nôtre garden, fountains and reflective basins of water integrated the sky into the visual arrangement. When the brothers diverged from Le Nôtre’s example, it was to simplify elements. The elaborate curved patterns of boxwood became simplified Greek key patterns.28 The bosquets, or small artificial woods, became enclosures with hedge walls. Fountains that integrated the sky into the garden became mirrors laid on the wall.29 Statues of gods and allegorical figures became purely decorative classicist nudes posing in a state of “continual leisure.”30 Occasionally vegetation was minimized and large sections of the garden were reduced to inlays of different kinds of stone.31

While lovers of tradition, the Veras were

also Modernists at heart. They recognized that Le Nôtre was an innovator of his time and sought to be the same. As André states in Les Jardins, “there is no tradition without modernity. The reciprocal proposition is true: no modernity without tradition.”32 Their interest in simplicity

and order was due in part to their acute awareness of the rapid urbanization occurring at this time. In their opinion, the one thing that modern man needed was a space they could call their own, where they could escape from the demands of modern life.33 As a result, the Veras almost exclusively focused on the private garden and, in many instances, their focus was on the garden’s relation to its owner and the house to which it was attached. With a turn of phrase that brings to mind Le Corbusier’s description of the home as a “machine for living,” André would speak of the “garden-machine.”34 With practicality and the speed of modern life in mind, he advocated for gardens that were easy to maintain, which led eventually to his advocacy for mineral gardens.

The Veras’ designs show little

consideration for how gardens relate to surroundings beyond the home, including nearby roads and other plots. In many of their drawings, that information is not even included.35 Instead, they focused on the garden as an extension of the house, becoming essentially an outdoor room or series of rooms. Indeed, André called the garden an “apartment for outdoor living” in both Le Nouveau Jardin and Les Jardins.36 As a result, he emphasized the need for the garden to mirror the proportions of the house of which it was an extension.37 The various sections of gardens, like the rooms of a house, were also given specific purposes. One area would be set aside as a vegetable garden, another as a terrace to relax on, another would have a tennis court, and another a rose garden. In their most forward-thinking moment, the Veras designed a garden with a garage for the parking of a plane. The content of each garden was centered on the personality and interests of the owner.38 44

With his treatment of the garden as an outdoor apartment, André brought garden design under the realm of architecture. He believed the architect was the best individual to create the Modernist jardin régulier.39 He particularly appealed to architects in his 1923 essay “Exhortations aux architects de s’interesser aux jardins” (“Exhortation to Architects to Concern Themselves with Gardens”).40 Much of André’s ideal of the garden was also based on the ideal of the unified interior.41 It is perhaps because of André’s constant praise of architects that Le Corbusier was a known admirer.42

Despite his distaste for Art Nouveau

design, there is no doubt André echoed, if unintentionally, the designers of German Art Nouveau, or Jugendstil, gardens. Their designers included such names as Josef Olbrich and Josef Lepelmann.43 Not only did they precede the Veras in their desire to bring the formal garden to the middle-class private home, but they also brought with them the idea of the garden as an extension of the home and a reflection of its architectural layout. For them, the ideal of the Gesamtkunstwerk, a multimedia creation wherein every disparate part functions in perfect coordination, could also be applied to the garden.44 André would cite Le Nôtre’s work as the perfect representation of the garden as a unified space and a primarily architectural creation, but these ideas could be seen as rooted in the very fin-de-siècle philosophy from which the Veras were trying to distance themselves.

If André revered Le Nôtre, he diverged

from the latter’s philosophy, perhaps without even realizing it, in his opinion of the garden’s purpose. Le Nôtre’s gardens were above all theatrical creations. Fountains at both Vaux and Versailles 45

were conceived as providers of visual interest and entertainment value.45 At Versailles, bosquets were full of elaborate waterworks, sculptural tableaux, and outdoor theaters. These bosquets also served as sites of feasts.46 The gardens of Versailles were conceived as an extension of the palace and as a natural set against which pageantry and ceremonies could be performed to emphasize the splendor of their owner, Louis XIV.47 In many ways, the theatricality of Le Nôtre’s gardens aligned them more with the ideals of the jardin paysager than the Veras would care to admit.

In the Veras’ philosophy, the garden was

not a space for theater but a space where its owner could have a private connection with ordered nature, elevating his mind and spirit. The garden was nature shaped by the mind, and the mind, in turn, was shaped by the garden. In describing the “Garden of the Aviator” in Les Jardins, for example, André states, [The aviator] has begun to exercise his power and conquest over some acres, and he has completely subjugated them to his thoughts. As his daedal tyranny is recent, so is his authority enduring. The composition of the garden is fully stylized: the fittings are indissoluble, the links are exact, the contrasts are neat. This look is maintained by our friend with arcades of dark verdure, like the willful arch of his eyebrows… The garden is entirely subjugated. Each form and color reflects a decision, and by his passion not only constrains his will without ever loosening but strengthens it and stimulates it.48

Not only does the garden in its rigid

layout express the willpower of its owner, but the appearance of the garden seems to literally evoke his appearance. Furthermore, the garden strengthens him;

Fig. 5. AndrÊ and Paul Vera, Terrasse du Jardin au Soleil (Terrace of the Garden in the Sun), ca. 1914, brush and black ink, black crayon, graphite on cream tracing paper, 22.4 x 29.3 cm (8 13/16 x 11 9/16 in.), Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum, New York, Museum purchase from Smithsonian Institution Collections Acquisition Program Fund, 1991-58-10; Photo: Matt Flynn Š Smithsonian Institution


being in the garden improves his spirit and passion, the very passion that gave the garden its shape. In Le Nouveau Jardin, André would describe the garden as the “constant instigator of wisdom.”49 In Les Jardins, he would claim that a garden’s ornaments are “meant to exalt.”50 The garden was “an art of absolute serenity.”51 Its rooms were “rooms of meditation.”52 The rigid geometry and simplicity of the Veras’ gardens were all meant to bring peace of mind to its owners. In creating this universal standard of order and structure to gardens, they inspired in their owners a desire for harmony:

a culture that valued self-indulgence and materialism and encouraged people to reject shared desires and needs for personal interests.55

Returning to Cooper Hewitt’s drawings,

one sees how they embody a philosophy at once modern and traditional. There is indeed much of Le Nôtre to be found here: the symmetry and regularity of the arrangement, the pure geometric forms of the hedges and trees, the classicist sculpture, and the fountains and their reflective pools of water. The arrangement of a vegetal wall surrounding an enclosure with a fountain at its center casts the design as a simplified version of one of In placing all things according to geometry, that is to say conformed to the Le Nôtre’s bosquets. However, that is laws of spirit, we make nature give up where the seventeenth-century influence and follow reason. Gardens of reason, ends. The design is also Modernist, but in a sense, gardens of intelligence, if you Modernist in a way that recalls the origins prefer… At the same time, all parties of the formal garden in the medieval being dependent and adjusted, a harmony paradigm of the monastic garden as a will be created, an assured unity; it is place of relaxation, peace, and removal still a special quality of French art. One from the world.56 In the Renaissance, the notices [this] already in the Middle Ages, regularity of the formal garden would in the works of our race, when the style 53 be seen as an acknowledgement of the was universal and catholic. underlying cosmic order that governed all things.57 The formal garden was thus The central tenet of André’s “La Doctrine perceived in a religious sense as a sort of décorative de demain,” the call for unity, manmade evocation of paradise, and in was embodied in the formal garden. a secular sense as a place of respite from The Veras believed that looking upon a the business of the world. Above all, the garden and perceiving how its disparate garden was meant to be a pleasant and elements came together in a unified visual serene area for the owner to retreat from scheme would inspire others to develop reality, as well as a practical space for the society into a similarly cohesive whole. growing of fruits, vegetables, and herbs.58 In the end, the push for the return of The Modernist and the medieval garden the formal garden was in itself part of designer shared this ideal of the garden as the call for unity, a chance to learn from a reflection of man’s control over nature the harmonious times of Le Nôtre how and as a visualized cosmic order. Both to come together as a society.54 It was also saw the garden as a room or series of another reason why in their eyes the jardin rooms, an interior largely isolated from nature serving as a source of leisure and paysager was undesirable. The style of the meditation.59 jardin paysager had been developed in 47

Sitting on the half-moon bench of the

Veras’ ornamental garden, listening to the sound of the fountain, regarding the statue and the reflections of light that play on it, admiring the pure geometry of the benches and trees, one would be affected not so much by a mood of splendor, but a mood of calm. The theatricality and grandeur of the Le Nôtre garden are disregarded in favor of the simple spiritual pleasure of the medieval garden, the hortus conclusus. “If you encounter retreats, corners of reverie,” André writes in Le Nouveau Jardin “if you hear sweetly murmuring fountains, if, in the middle of the parterres, sunlight is reflected in the tranquil basins… [then] without a doubt, the owner is of a peaceful character and a contemplative spirit.”60 However, whereas the medieval garden was conceived as a reflection of Eden, the Vera garden was conceived as a reflection of the self. Instead of seeking to inspire faith, the Vera garden sought to inspire rationalism, introspection, and the desire for unity among men. Likewise, its obsession with basic forms and its abstraction of the garden into a completely formal arrangement looked forward to the shortlived cubist garden movement embodied in the work of Gabriel Guvrekian.61 The design in Cooper Hewitt’s three drawings is deeply Modernist, but it is also rooted in a very ancient tradition. Whether meant for an illustration or an exhibition, the garden design represented in these drawings embodies the complex relation with past, present, and future that makes the Veras’ work so entrancing.

Notes 1. The museum has purchased several French drawings from the dealer dating from the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries as well as a drawing by Austrian architect and designer Joseph Urban. Chong, who is based in London and Paris, also deals in material related to the visual documentation of Southeast Asia, and she has authored or co-authored several articles and books on the subject including Nineteenth-Century Prints of Singapore and Painting the East: Paintings & Drawings 1790-1940. 2. Dorothée Imbert, The Modernist Garden in France (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1993), 72; Rosine de Charon and Claire Vignes-Dumas, “Les Jardins dans l’oeuvre des frères Vera,” in Paul et André Vera: Tradition et Modernité, ed. Agnès Virole (Paris: Hazan, 2008), 50. However, the list of Vera gardens provided later within the chapter numbers only fourteen entries. 3. Ibid., 39. 4. Yu Chee Chong, “Natural Order” World Architecture 1, no. 1 (1989), 73; Agnès Virole, “Paul Vera, Peintre-Decorateur,” in Virole, Paul et André Vera: Tradition et Modernité, 185. 5. Agnès Virole, “Paul Vera, Peintre-Decorateur,” 187. 6. de Charon and Vignes-Dumas, “Les Jardins,” 39 7. Chong, “Natural Order,” 73-74. 8. Virole, “Paul Vera, Peintre-Decorateur,” 65, 69. Paul Vera also contributed a painting of the Judgment of Paris to the Maison Cubiste. 9. André Vera, “Le Nouveau Style,” L’Art décoratif 27, no. 1 (1912), 25. 10. Ibid., 21-25. 11. Ibid., 30-31. 12. Virole, “Paul Vera, Peintre-Decorateur,” 6667. 13. Suzanne Lise, “Between Art and Industry: Design Reform in France, 1851-1939” (Ph.D. dissertation, University of Pittsburgh, 1991), 267268. 14. Ibid. 48

15. André Vera, “Le Nouveau Style,” L’Art décoratif 27, no. 1 (1912), 25. 16. Ibid., 66 17. Ibid., 85.

40. Ibid., 72. 41. Ibid., 79. 42. Ibid., 178.

19. Ibid., 51-53.

43. Birgit Wahmann, “The Jugendstil Garden in Germany and Austria,” in The History of Garden Design: The Western Tradition from the Renaissance to the Present Day, 454.

20. Ibid., 55.

44. Ibid.

21. Vera, “Le Nouveau Style,” 31.

45. Kenneth Woodbridge, Princely Gardens: The Origins and Development of the French Formal Style (New York: Rizzoli, 1986), 192, 211.

18. Imbert, The Modernist Garden, 72.

22. André Vera, Les Jardins (Paris: Émile-Paul frères, 1919), 16. 23. Monique Mosser, “Henri and Achille Dûchene and the Reinvention of Le Nôtre,” in The History of Garden Design: The Western Tradition from the Renaissance to the Present Day, eds. Monique Mosser and Georges Teyssot (London: Thames and Hudson, 1991), 447-449.

46. Woodbridge, Princely Gardens, 209.

24. Vera, Les Jardins, 15.

47. Mark Laird, The Formal Garden: Traditions of Art and Nature (New York: Thames and Hudson, 1992), 76, 78; Marianne Roland Michel, “Scenography and Perspective in 18th-Century French Gardens,” in The History of Garden Design: The Western Tradition from the Renaissance to the Present Day, 244.

25. Ibid., 18.

48. Vera, Les Jardins, 133-134.

26. Imbert, The Modernist Garden in France, 68.

49. Vera, Le Nouveau Jardin, 222.

27. Ibid., 75.

50. Vera, Les Jardins, 28.

28. Chong, “Natural Order,” 75.

51. Vera, Le Nouveau Jardin, 247.

29. de Charon and Vignes-Dumas, “Les Jardins dans l’oeuvre des frères Vera,” 43.

52. Vera, Les Jardins, 20.

30. André Vera, Le Nouveau Jardin (Paris: ÉmilePaul Frères, 1912), 251. 31. Imbert, The Modernist Garden in France, 58, 61, 82. 32. Vera, Les Jardins, 34.

53. Vera, Les Jardins, 35. 54. Ibid., 23-24. 55. Ibid., 24. 56. Chong, Natural Order, 74; Woodbridge, Princely Gardens, 16-20.

33. de Charon and Vignes-Dumas, “Les Jardins dans l’oeuvre des frères Vera,” 40.

57. Terry Comito, “The Humanist Garden” in The History of Garden Design: The Western Tradition from the Renaissance to the Present Day, 40-41.

34. Imbert, The Modernist Garden, 60.

58. Ibid., 47.

35. de Charon and Vignes-Dumas, “Les Jardins dans l’oeuvre des frères Vera,” 52.

59. de Charon and Vignes-Dumas, “Les Jardins dans l’oeuvre des frères Vera,” 40;Woodbridge, Princely Gardens, 16.

36. Vera, Le Nouveau Jardin, 55; Vera, Les Jardins, 115. 37. de Charon and Vignes-Dumas, “Les Jardins dans l’oeuvre des frères Vera,” 42. 38. Ibid., 40. 49 39. Imbert, The Modernist Garden in France, 80.

60. Vera, Le Nouveau Jardin, 44. 61. Catherine Royer, “Art Deco Gardens in France,” in The History of Garden Design: The Western Tradition from the Renaissance to the Present Day, 462, 464.

Drawing, Rain Forest, Jamaica, West Indies, April–August 1865; Frederic Edwin Church (American, 1826–1900); Jamaica; brush and oil paint on paperboard; Gift of Louis P. Church; Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum, 1917-4-678-b; Photo: Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum

Spirit Island is caught in conflict. Europeans have

Considering the Anti-Colonialist Board Game Spirit Island Nicholas de Godoy Lopes

started colonizing the island, and the indigenous tribe the Dahan are finding themselves increasingly overrun. Initially peaceful contact has quickly intensified into direct opposition, as the Europeans seem unconcerned that they are displacing native people and stripping land of its resources. As the damage to the island and the Dahan’s settlements increases, the island’s spirits decide to push against the intruders to prevent further destruction. Players in the board game Spirit Island take on the role of spirits such as Lightning’s Swift Strike and River Surges in Sunlight and work together to repulse waves of increasingly invasive European colonizers. Players develop their powers and cooperate to destroy European settlements by deploying cards and maneuvering pieces representing both colonizers and the Dahan through the islands’ regions. Through careful coordination, the players attempt, with the help of the Dahan, to prevent European settlement. If they do not succeed, widespread devastation is certain. This essay reviews Spirit Island as a uniquely ambitious and 50

conceptually daring example of contemporary strategic board games, a genre I am familiar with as a long-time player within the board game community. Spirit Island, created by American game designer R. Eric Reuss and published by Fabled Nexus, is a cooperative game set in an alternate version of the world around 1700. In terms of gameplay, the game satisfyingly fuses traits of two different types of board games, the European style and American style. As a European-style game, it emphasizes strategy with multiple routes to victory and many complex interacting mechanics that allow the players as spirit characters to grow powerful and versatile in their abilities. As an American-style game, it ties its mechanics to its theme convincingly, allowing players to immerse themselves deeply within its narrative scenario.1 This scenario is where Spirit Island truly stands out. It is one of the first, if not the very first, games designed to counter pro-colonialist narratives that are frequently implied in Eurocentric games of empire- or settlement-building such as Amerigo, Navegador, and Puerto Rico. Spirit Island explicitly asks players to see as destructive and invasive what other games present as a necessary act for political and societal growth. My review of the game focuses on how well Spirit Island succeeds in its admirable attempt to insert a muchneeded anti-colonial narrative into gaming. Beyond my own experience playing the game and my exploration of other reviews and commentary on it, I will also primarily refer to Reuss’s designer diary published on boardgamegeek.com, in which he has provided extensive insight on his thought process.

It is difficult to overemphasize how unusual Spirit Island’s theme is, especially given its 51

frequent categorization as a Europeanstyle game. Most games in the genre focus on themes related to developing economies, urban centers, or polities. They attempt to engage ideas of growth and selfimprovement and downplay narratives of conflict and conquest.2 However, Spirit Island presents players with a narrative filled with societal destruction. You win either by eradicating enough of the colonizers’ settlements or by terrifying them so much with your spiritual power that they abandon the island willingly. You lose if the settlers succeed in establishing themselves, if they cause too much environmental devastation, or if they manage to eliminate one of the spirits resisting them. Spirit Island presents a reality in which loss is an ever-present specter. The destruction of colonizers’ efforts to establish themselves is regarded positively. Urban growth is an enemy, and resistance to it a heroic act. Devastation appears in victory as well as defeat. Even if the spirits and the Dahan succeed in stopping the invaders, they will likely find the human population reduced and the world at least partially destroyed.

If Spirit Island possesses a narrative filled

with destruction, how then does it engage with ideas of growth and development that are key to the European-style genre? It does so by having players take on the roles of spirits. These spirits have a variety of abilities, such as controlling plant life, causing storms, and creating ethereal barriers, that players can develop by collecting and playing cards. They can also increase the number of cards they can play and place tokens on regions of the map thereby widening the range of their influence. Even as the Europeans increasingly entrench themselves, and their destructive effect on the land and native population increases, players can, through

well-strategized play, make their spirits stronger, more effective in their actions, and more able ultimately to defeat the colonizers. By introducing the spirits, who act separately from the more direct human conflict occurring on the island, Spirit Island simultaneously presents loss and growth, devastation and development, as occurring side-by-side. This balance allows the game to satisfy players’ desires to enjoy everincreasing maneuverability and power within the game system while maintaining the game’s narrative impact.3

However, despite Reuss’ ability to create

a game that successfully achieves its ludic goals, I believe it unfortunately comes at the cost of producing a less-than-satisfying message. That it presents colonization as a negative act is undeniable, but the presence of magical spirits who can simply scare colonizers into leaving distances the game scenario from any sense of reality and undercuts the human element of the narrative. The game’s polemic power is further undermined by the way colonizers and Dahan operate within the game’s mechanics. The colonizers act entirely out of the players’ control, their actions determined by a deck of cards. The Dahan are only slightly less passive entities. Controlled by the players themselves, they will attack colonizers automatically if they are in the same region of the map but otherwise wait to be moved like pawns. Unlike the spirits, the Dahan never grow in strength or develop new tactics and actions. They have no control over their survival, and players can send Dahan pieces to their certain death just to assure the eradication of a European settlement.

The dehumanization of the Dahan is only intensified by the lack of information

about them. While the invaders are identified as Europeans, and players can use scenarios that further identify the colonizers as British, Swedish, or Prussian, the geographic location of Spirit Island isn’t even provided.4 The Dahan culture is largely left undescribed, due in part to Reuss’ desire not to tie the game’s events to any specific historic instance of colonization.5 However, the result is that the Dahan come off as somewhat inconsequential entities. There is no attempt in the game to emphasize how, even in victory, the Dahan usually suffer a reduction in numbers. Despite its attempts to illustrate the destructive nature of colonization, Spirit Island still struggles to make its players feel the real loss implicit in the game’s events.

Reuss, admirably, sees many of the

shortcomings of his games. He discusses in his diary the potential of making the Dahan playable entities, and there is already an expansion called Branch & Claw, which I have not played, that give the Dahan and the European invaders more unpredictable, and therefore more organic, actions through special cards.6 Reuss has explained at length the reasons he made his design choices. He has noted that the concept of magic was an integral element of the game’s mechanics since the beginning and one widely embraced by play-testers.7 From a thematic standpoint, magic is used in the game to explain how players are able to develop their powers and grow despite the overall destructive events occurring in the narrative. The realization that presenting the Dahan themselves as magical would be extremely problematic was one of Reuss’ motivations for introducing spirits as the playable characters.8 However, it is clear that placing the player in the role of powerful spirits detached from the human 52

conflict is also an issue. While the game succeeds in conveying a narrative of spirits with supernatural abilities resisting a human invasion, one can’t help but wonder how much more effective the game’s message would be if it used a different group of protagonists whose actions are more believable and more human, even if more limited in power.9 Reuss’ desire to fulfill two near-opposite goals, player immersion in a narrative full of destruction

human conflict and the devastation that results from it. Such a game would likely struggle to fulfill players’ expectations for enjoyable or rewarding gameplay. As other game theorists have noted, the need to make games engaging to play and open-ended in outcome often make them imperfect didactic statements.10 Spirit Island, despite its shortcomings, has at least made an admirable attempt to engage a difficult topic in a way that would lead players to

Map Sampler, An Outline Map of the World for Ladies Needlework and Young Students of Geography, 1798; England; silk; Gift of Helen, Jean, and Margaret Wilson; Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum, 1967-62-1; Photo: Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum

and in gameplay that stresses consistent growth, ultimately undercuts much of the game’s argumentative strength.

The primary issues with Spirit Island are

issues of the game type itself. What makes Spirit Island successful in gameplay is also what compromises the strength of its narrative. A more realistic anti-colonialist game would be much more focused on the 53

embrace it. Through its satisfying gameplay, it has succeeded in making players question the values other games promote and think of victory as occurring not through growth but through resistance. The first truly great anti-colonialist game has not yet been made, but Spirit Island is an undeniably important first step toward that goal. Though imperfect, Spirit Island’s statement on colonialization is clear, confident, and impossible to ignore.


1. Greg Costikyan, “Board Game Aesthetics,” in Tabletop: Analog Game Design, eds. Greg Costikyan and Drew Davidson (New York: ETC Press, 2011), 181-83.

10. John Sharp, “I Love Pandemic (and I Despair for Serious Games),” in Costikyan and Davidson, Tabletop: Analog Game Design, 13234.

2. Stewart Woods, Eurogames: The Design, Culture and Play of Modern European Board Games (Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland & Company, Inc, 2012), 57-58, 211. 3.The success of Spirit Island as a game modeling growth despite its narrative has been commented on in reviews, for example, Aaron Zimmerman, “Spirit Island review: Finally, an anti-colonialist board game,” Arstechnica.com, March 24, 2018. https://arstechnica.com/gaming/2018/03/ spirit-island-review-finally-an-anti-colonialistboard-game/. However, some have questioned how the spirits’ growth can actually occur given the game’s events. See, for example, the comment on Zimmerman’s review by Mike Hartman, March 24, 2018. 4. The generalized treatment of the Dahan has earned some criticism from players. For an example I’ve found while researching this article, see comment by John Basile, November 24, 2017, on Paul Dean, “Review: Spirit Island,” shutupandsitdown.com, November 24, 2017, https://www.shutupandsitdown.com/reviewspirit-island/. 5. R. Eric Reuss, “Designer Diary: Spirit Island, or Inverting the Colonization Trope,” Musings and Retrospectives, boardgamegeek.com, November 6th, 2017, https://boardgamegeek.com/ blogpost/67955/designer-diary-spirit-island-orinverting-coloniza. 6. R. Eric Reuss, “Spirit Island Design Diary - the Dahan,” Musings and Retrospectives, boardgamegeek.com, July 23th, 2017, https:// boardgamegeek.com/blogpost/67292/spiritisland-design-diary-dahan; R. Eric Reuss, “Spirit Island Design Diary - Events,” Musings and Retrospectives, boardgamegeek.com, July 31st, 2017, https://boardgamegeek.com/ blogpost/67629/spirit-island-design-diary-events 7. Reuss, “Spirit Island Design Diary - the Dahan.” 8. Ibid. 9. Others have expressed a belief that the game and its message would be stronger if focused on the Dahan. See comments by Sagantine, November 24, 2017 and TheCosmicKid, November 25, 2017, on Dean, “Review: Spirit Island,” https://www.shutupandsitdown.com/ review-spirit-island/. 54

The Reconsideration of the House Museum Virginia Pollock Public perception of historic house museums is often

influenced by the off-limits nature of such spaces. These interiors tend to be quiet, static places, and, as a result, are often not engaging. Recently, some sites have turned to art to help boost audience engagement in a meaningful and educational way. By inviting artists into historic spaces, these creative interactions facilitate dialogue between the past and present. Previous examples of such exhibitions include installations displayed at the Morris-Jumel Mansion in New York, Glen Foerd in Philadelphia, and even aboard the 1890s cruiser USS Olympia. The exhibition Victoriana Reimagined was on view at the 1859 Ebenezer Maxwell Mansion in Philadelphia in 2018. Inviting contemporary artists to respond to the restored interiors, the show exemplified how historic houses can become activated through artistic interventions that aim to create an immersive experience.


Photographs by Jamie Alvarez courtesy of Ebenezer Maxwell Mansion

Curated by Heather Gibson Moqtaderi and organized by Past Present Projects, three artists were invited to respond to different facets of Victorian life presented within the Maxwell Mansion. When touring the Mansion, guests first encountered Jacintha Clark’s Parlour Porcelain installation in the main entertainment area of the parlor. Scattered along the top of the room’s centerpiece, an 1850s Stieff piano, was an arrangement of handpainted porcelain pieces that recreated nineteenth-century sheet music. The use of such a delicate medium enabled a visual illusion, making it seem that the sculpted pieces were thin sheets of paper that were folded, indented, and crinkled. Clark painted each surface in such accurate detail that the pieces were later part of a public musical event, with pianist Kobi Davidson reading and performing the compositions. This combination of visual and performing arts recalled the original use of the parlor space during the nineteenth-century as the main area of public entertainment within the house.

Moving from the parlor to the dining room across the hall, visitors encountered paper

artist Talia Greene’s work Untangling the Fox and the Grapes. Borrowing motifs present in the room’s central gasolier, a mass of hand-cut, gold-painted paper foxes and leaves cascaded down from the lighting fixture to land delicately on a table below. The visual display was accompanied by recordings of fox calls mixed with sounds of muffled chatter and clinking china, provided by sound artist Jordan Deal. This was the most active of the installations, not only requiring viewers to move around the table to fully view the piece, but also using sound to activate the space. Simulating polite dinner conversation, the room was returned to its former use, bringing a sense of life to a household that is usually quiet and static.

Lastly, jeweller Melanie Bilenker presented A Room in the main second-floor bedroom. An unassuming work, the modern tunnel book structure was composed of four separate glass


plates that featured delicate representational line work. Put together, the visuals in each panel replicated an image of her own bedroom within the space of the Maxwell bedroom. The connection to Victorian history was further embedded in the materiality of the delicate lines within the panels, which were made of Bilenker’s own hair. This work is a modern counterpart to a piece of original nineteenth-century hair art on display in the same room, which uses the natural medium in a more three-dimensional way. Bilenker invited viewers to engage with the work by providing a magnifying glass to closely inspect the fine details of the mixed media installation.

One of the strengths of this exhibition was each contemporary installation’s cohesive

visual balance with its historic surroundings. The artists meticulously researched those aspects of Victorian culture to which they responded, resulting in works that blended with, and were activated by, the interiors of the Maxwell Mansion. This respect for history was equally balanced with artistic expression, with each of the contemporary artists displaying their individual aesthetic. By altering the spaces of the house in a way that was subtle and not intrusive, these artists cleverly sparked a dialogue between the modern world and the Victorian environment of the house to further engage visitors through immersive visual and auditory experiences.

This approach will be featured in the next exhibition curated by Past Present Projects,

Graffiti & Ornament, on display in the historic Hamilton Mansion at The Woodlands in Philadelphia from March 31 to April 28, 2019. In this case, artists Roberto Lugo and Leo Tecosky have been invited by curator Elizabeth Essner to respond to the Hamilton Mansion’s completely unfurnished historic interior—a feat that will likewise produce a refreshing visit to the past.




Ottoman and Orientalism Sebastian Grant

Since its introduction into European design historic nations of Europe, the ottoman in the eighteenth century, the ottoman couch has become a standard furnishing in Europe and North America, with the term ‘ottoman’ remaining in use long since the end of the Ottoman Empire. But what is the ottoman? Merriam-Webster’s dictionary defines it, in furniture terms, as “a: an upholstered often overstuffed seat or couch usually without a back, or b: an overstuffed footstool.”1 Looking more critically, the ottoman as we currently understand it in the Western world, did not exist historically in the Ottoman Empire. Divans, sofas, and other types of couches and cushions were important pieces of traditional Ottoman seating, but once adapted in the West, they did not keep the same shapes nor serve the same functions. Instead the ottoman arises as a Western European idea of Eastern culture, specifically, its concept of comfort. In fact, it is possible that what defines the ottoman as an object is neither its shape nor its function, but its nomenclature. Indeed, the ottoman reemerges in the United States in the 1960s as part of a countercultural or “ethnic style” that emphasizes relaxation as exotic and continues to have similar meanings in contemporary design collections.

Tied to a history of trade and transference between the late Ottoman Empire and the

Fig. 1. Ottoman Emperor Orhan I (1299-1359) seated on constructed divan. From A series of Portraits of the Emperors of Turkey, 1808. © Art Resource. ArtRes Photo: HIP / Art Resource NY

can be connected to the history of European colonial practices and the fictionalization of the Far East or what Edward Said defined as Orientalism. Just as the two continents traded spices and textiles, they also traded design ideas. The long couches of the Ottoman Empire influenced the European design aesthetic and also engendered imagined notions of Orientalist comfort. Such ideas, derived from European Colonialist attitudes, contributed to the exoticization of the East.2 By exploring the beginnings of furniture design in eighteenth-century France and the Ottoman influence on it, one begins to uncover how the word ‘ottoman’ transformed from its definition of a people, culture and empire into a piece of furniture defined by the West. This essay explores the original intentions and uses of the couch in the Ottoman Empire, its transformation into the Western setting as Europeans became familiar with its design, and the emergence of the European definition of comfort as realized through the ottoman.

To understand the ottoman couch as

an idea and its later appropriation by European designers, it is important to contextualize the couch and original forms of seating within the Ottoman Empire. But it is difficult to situate discussion of Ottoman seating under one cultural representation, since in the eight hundred 60

years of the empire’s existence, between the twelfth and the twentieth centuries, significantly different fashions and designs in clothing and furniture emerged. For the purposes of this essay, therefore, it is best to view furniture design in the Ottoman Empire between the late seventeenth and nineteenth centuries, when modern trade between Europe and the Empire, which started from the Medieval events of the Crusades, was an ongoing and important influence on the design aesthetic in both regions.

In the Empire, extending from the cultural

center in its capital Istanbul (in modernday Turkey), traditional forms of seating generally consisted of couches, rugs, and cushions, which were usually placed close to the floor. The most common form of seating in the Empire was the divan, a long couch or mattress covered with various pillows and cushions. With its name deriving from the Ottoman governmental council, where they were originally found, these mattresses were placed on the floor, along the length of the wall, letting the room define how the furniture would fit the space. According to writer Gülen Çervik, the divan was important in depicting a form of comfort that was different from the European standard; it was a type of seating that was never “prearranged” to dictate the comfortable position but instead accepted that personal space is intuitively more permeable and overlapping.3 The divan allowed freedom of body positioning and placement anywhere along the couch. Also found in populous locations such as palaces and coffeehouses, these open couches allowed multiple people to use them again without restricting an individual’s search for a comfortable position. Used alongside the divan was the sofa, which represented a much more constructed piece of furniture 61

that was also placed along the walls of the room. Deriving from the Turkish derivative of the Arabic word ‘suffa,’ meaning bench, the sofa was often placed in the halls of traditional households, usually built into the room, thus becoming a more permanent form of seating (Fig. 1).4

Along with these specified couches and

benches, Ottoman seating also featured pieces that were easily movable or multifunctional. According to historian M. Şükrü Hanioğlu, middle-class furniture in the Ottoman Empire needed to be “simple and easy to move,” so that household seating usually consisted of pillows, cushions, and mattresses that could be used in multiple rooms and stored away if necessary to create more space.5 Viewing estate inventories, Hanioğlu discusses the need for soft seating that provided the basic needs of comfort, and he notes that chairs were rarely owned except by the higher classes, revealing that the chair was considered a piece of luxury for the refined Ottoman taste instead of an item of necessity.

The first mentions of Ottoman furniture

in Europe happen in the late seventeenth century in literary travelogues of the East. Terms such as sofa and divan, immediately made their way into the vocabularies of European elite, as noted by French writer François de Caillères, who used the Turkish word ‘sofa’ to describe a couch of ‘the Turkish style’.6 When describing furnishings similar to the Ottoman sofa, Europeans would use the word ‘couch,’ coming from the French verb coucher meaning ‘to sleep.’ As trade continued with the Ottoman Empire, the word sofa entered the European lexicon. Although these literary references documented the types of furniture pieces found in the East, European furniture design had to wait until the eighteenth century before these

Fig. 2. Print, Design for a Confident (Sofa), ca. 1780; France; etching on white laid paper; Gift of Eleanor and Sarah Hewitt; Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum, 1931-94-201; Photo: Matt Flynn © Smithsonian Institution

Eastern designs were implemented into an evolving idea of European comfort.

Before the eighteenth century, European furniture, like that of the Ottoman Empire, also provided mobility. Since the Middle Ages, the concept of physical comfort in furniture was almost nonexistent. The constant need to migrate about the continent required all personal possessions to be movable, leading the French to label furniture mobilier; it was built to be mobile.7 This concept changed during the reign of Louis XIV in late seventeenth and early eighteenth-century France, when the king centralized all the power of the nation within the gates of the palace of Versailles. To embed his permanency within this palace, he established the Garde-Meuble de la Couronne at the Gobelins Tapestry Manufactory in Paris.8 Here, the king assembled makers and craftsmen from the farthest extents of France to design and create pieces of immobile furniture for the palace.9 This was the beginning of one of

the first furniture industries in Europe, and because makers now had the freedom to experiment with pieces beyond functionality and mobility, new types of seating began to arrive with the latest French fashions and styles.

Progressing through the reigns of Louis

XIV and Louis XV, different forms of seating were invented, including fauteuils, cabriolets, and bergères, among others; each one served different functions. In 1671, the manufacturers at Gobelins created a couch that would revolutionze European furniture-making: the sofa.10 Although the sofa shared the same name as its Ottoman equivalent, the couch was not made to look like the one ‘in the Turkish style’ but was a new type of couch entirely. Based on the French armchair, the French sofa was elongated to allow more than one person to sit on it at one time, while it also created more space to allow an individual user to recline, instead of just sitting up 62

straight. Creating this sofa led to a plethora of other couch types for varying French tastes, with each style acquiring a new name and association in the growing world of French furniture design (Fig. 2). One of the new sofa types created was the ottomane à la turque, or the Turkish Ottoman, leading to the first occurrence of the word ‘ottoman’ used to describe an object of European furniture, instead of one related to the Ottoman Empire. This type of couch, ranging in size from 6 ½ to 10 feet long, was known for being bigger than the earlier sofa.11 The ottoman à la turque was also distinguished by having exotic, rounded ends, which were upholstered with luxurious textiles, often requiring double the amount of fabric to produce it. This couch, which represented a superb model for exotic luxury and great comfort, immediately became a hit, with the highest class within the French aristocracy owning them. Even Madame de Pompadour was known to have at least one such piece to show off in her château to imagine herself as an exotic Sultana, demonstrating her power and control as the Maîtresse-en-titre to the king.12

The use of the term ‘ottoman’ attached

to this novel piece of furniture with its romanticized associations to the Ottoman Empire is a clear example of how the West received the Ottoman East and created the exotic Other. As Said proposes, once European nations started interacting with Eastern Ottomans, the Western view of the Ottoman world developed into a full discourse on the East as seen through Western eyes. In Orientalism, Said describes how the West implicitly establishes its power through its own construction of the Eastern identity. He discusses how there has never “been such a thing as a pure, or 63

unconditional Orient.”13 Instead, the idea of the Orient became a product of cultural imagination “which was also produced by the West,” in order to create and maintain power over the conceived ‘Other’ culture. The Ottoman cultural identity as constructed by the West used the ‘exoticism’ of the East to create a dialectic between the East and the West which comforted Western cultural anxieties related to the precarious stability of its power.15 In the creation of the East as a cultural Other, which allowed the West to present itself favorably, the East became transformed from a region into a culture that represented what the West perceived itself not to be. It presented the East as exotic, libertine, and feminine, in opposition to the rational, masculine, and moralistic West—or what Europeans believed themselves to be. The concept of Orientalism distorted how the East was viewed and discussed from the Western point of view. The “Orientalized” East became a fictional culture that did not necessarily represent the East with any accuracy. It was a Western creation of the East that became a form of ownership of the East, delineating control over Eastern culture and image by appropriating and emphasizing its foreignness to Western culture (Fig. 3). In keeping with Said’s thesis, we can say that the French Turkish Ottoman sofa as it arose in the eighteenthcentury did not represent the couches of the Ottoman Empire as they existed in their original setting but instead became a representation of a European idea of Eastern exoticism. As Ottoman couches became mere symbols of the Eastern exotic, the words used to describe them underwent changes which transformed them effectively into

representations of Western fantasy. For example, the divan, removed from its original function in the Ottoman Empire, from the European viewpoint, now described any object considered more ‘exotic’ than any Western equivalent. It was equated to the term ‘ottoman’ only by virtue of its relationship to the Ottoman Empire rather than to any defined form of seating. In fact, the words sofa, divan, and ottoman became interchangeable in the West, as they continued to enter the European lexicon after the arrival of the ottomane à la turque. As sofas increasingly became normalized in European society, the Turkish Ottoman lost its specific identification as the exotic rounded-end sofa of the eighteenthcentury; its meaning changed to describe

any type of upholstered seating, including any vaguely increased use of cushions and pillows as indicative of Ottoman seating.16

The sofa as a couch also began to represent the fantasized East in more ways than solely its physical attributes; it took on a symbolic relationship to the exoticism of the East. By allowing the body to recline as its perceived connection to Ottoman culture, the sofa not only became a symbol for the relaxed body, but also an excuse for the relaxation of morals in mannerly society. According to scholar Mimi Hellman, objects in the French eighteenth-century household were not only meant to be appreciated in their ownership but were connected to their social function. Hellman states that “decorative objects conveyed meaning not simply through possession but

Fig. 3: Jean-Etienne Liotard, Portrait of M. Levett and Mlle. Glavany in Turkish costumes sitting on a divan, 1738-1741, Musée de Louvre, ©Alamy. Alamy Photo: The Picture Art Collection / Alamy Stock Photo


also through usage, through a spatial and temporal complicity with the cultivated body that produced the appearance of leisured, sociable, ease.”17 The sofa displayed ease as a sexualized state of being. This can be most clearly appreciated in Claude Prosper Jolyot de Crébillion’s eighteenth-century novel Le Sopha. In the novel, written in the style of an Orientlike story from the Arabian Nights, a man is cursed to inhabit the body of a sofa through several incarnations. The sofa becomes the piece of furniture on which seven couples exhibit carnal lust and explore their most decadent desires. Only when two pure and innocent virgin lovers consummate their relationship on the sofa is the entrapped man finally freed from his prison. The sofa in the novel represents a libertine object used to escape the strict moralistic rules of European society. It is a foreign object on which Europeans could project their most hidden desires. The East, construed as the sofa in the novel, is a means to move outside the moral codes of the West. The sofa offers this agency through its ‘relaxed’, comfortable nature. Srinivas Aravamudan acknowledges the hedonistic nature signified by the couch when he states, “Crébillon’s eponymous sofa is a metonym for Orientalized hedonism, fueled by new forms of consumption and bolstered by luxury goods imported from the East.”18 Thus, the Orientalist types of European couches, such as the sofa, the divan, or the ottoman, take on meaning beyond their exotic look and style, becoming symbolic of the depraved Eastern world as seen through the Western gaze.

But Crébillon’s novel not only depicts the

perceived depravity of the Eastern world as imagined by the West, it also secretly uses this decadence to illustrate French aristocratic debauchery as a prime example 65

of a greater European problem through the disguise of this satirical, moralistic tale. Many of the characters who engage in the debased behavior depicted in Le Sopha were based on real members of the French aristocracy, whose reputations contrasted the morality and manners Europeans expected themselves to uphold. Instead of critiquing the aristocracy of the Ancient régime outright, which would have surely lead to Crébillon’s imprisonment, he uses the disguise of the Orient, allowing the Western discourse on the East to provide “a vivid representation of decadence,” as a covert form of social commentary on the West.19

In the nineteenth century, the Orientalist

idea of a freer or more exotic lifestyle continued to dominate the Western world, further reinforced by events of European Imperialism, wherein the West utilized the discourse of Eastern decadence as a reason to ‘civilize’ the world and establish global power. The Orientalizing discourse continued apace in furniture-making, with the term ‘ottoman,’ as well as other words from the East, used to describe any furniture style that displayed the exotic Other (Fig. 4). One style, prevalent in the late nineteenth century, was the use of the Turkish rug as a form of upholstery. Couches designed in what was called the ‘Turkish Style’ were usually overstuffed and covered in an abundance of pillows and cushions. While reinterpreting the original cushion styles of the East, these ‘Turkish Style’ couches continued the “fanciful European view of Oriental life as one of leisure and relaxation,” with the idea of comfort directly opposite to the generally more rigid morality attributed to Victorian manners.20

Along with the vogue for Turkish style,

Fig. 4. Drawing, Ottomane D'encoignere (Genre Louis XV), lithograph, 1860; Designed by W. Kimbel ; USA; Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum, 1984-124-25-129; Photo: Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum

Eastern exoticism, when used in European seating, continued to embody and carry ideas of the fantastical Orient into the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. That is, while furnishings were not necessarily meant to represent the East accurately, any interior could take on an ‘Eastern’ cast and aesthetic simply through the addition of Turkish rugs and carpets. Crossing the threshold into an Eastern state of mind, one filled with the eroticism and unknown not usual to Western thought, Eastern objects added into Western spaces became a symbolic way of aligning with the fictionalized Ottoman Empire. British historian and author Marina Warner, in her book Stranger Magic, for example, notes how famed psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud would cover his couch with oriental rugs and cushions, calling it an ottoman when he consulted with his patients (Fig. 5).21 By

redefining the couch as an Eastern object, Freud elicited the “erotics, daydreaming, and storytelling,” so famed in Scheherazade tales in the Arabian Nights, as a way to discover the unconscious dream potential present within his patients’ minds.22 Warner’s narrative demonstrates how the East remains implicit to illicit sexuality and eroticism. The perception of the Orient as shown through Freud’s couch was still connected to realms of mysticism and spirituality that could not be as readily achieved through the late nineteenthcentury Western world of scientific analysis and mechanical reasoning.

Using the East to escape the strict

social codes of the West remains alive in contemporary society today. It is found in the revival of interest in Eastern spirituality, most famously during the 66

radical countercultural social movements of the 1960s. The Baby Boomer generation reacted against the stringent, moralistic attitudes of their elders by searching for alternative ways to live their lives. Rejecting racism, war, and Capitalist materialism, and not wanting to be “constrained within a rigid paradigm,” the counterculture of the late 1960s explored avenues outside the bourgeois life of the city, embracing spirituality, experimenting with psychotropic drugs, and promoting sexual liberation.23 In this effort to escape the restrictive moral codes of the West, many took an interest in the Eastern religion of Hinduism. First explored by members of the Beat Generation, the 1960s’ interest in Eastern religions was depicted most famously by the Beatles’ trip to Rishikesh in 1968, where they studied Transcendental Meditation with the guru Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. Interest in the East and its religions immediately advanced into the Hippie Movement.24

Along with this renewed interest in the

East, designers engaged in what was called ‘ethnic style’, incorporating furnishings

freed from Modernist constraints. Home interiors began to feature bright colors on the walls, shag rugs were imported from Morocco, and beanbags were strewn around the floor in a manner that recalled (or reinterpreted) the cushions and pillows of the Far East.25 This style remains a part or contemporary design today, especially as globalization and the internet offer ever more varied influences and tastes from around the world.

The ‘ethnic style’ of the 1960s still

manifested the Western ‘Orientalized’ view of the East. Just as in the nineteenth century, the East was used by the West to escape the rigid social structures of Western society simply by adopting Eastern objects into interior design that might enable mysticism and sexual liberation. Designers, for example, might combine Indian Hinduism with Middle Eastern elements in an exotic melange of two distinct cultures and religions without sensitivity to its sources. While positively regarded in the late 1960s, the East was still presented as an Other upon which the West could project fantasies more restricted in their own

Fig. 5. Sigmund Freud’s Consultation Room, c. 1938. Photo from ARTStor Slide Gallery Collection.


society. This is especially provocative given that countries and regions such as India and the Middle East had been struggling for independence since the 1940s. Movements against Imperialist control by European or Western nations sometimes became violent by the 1960s with Europe and America intervening in such places as Algeria and Vietnam. It appears as if ‘Orientalizing,’ as an assertion of the dichotomy between East and West, becomes more necessary during a time of war, geopolitical crisis and generational division.

The recurring discourse of Orientalism

illuminates why using the term ‘ottoman’ remains somewhat problematic in the Western design world. Indeed, it is still not known exactly how the ottoman transitioned from being an upholstered couch to its modern interpretation as a stool or footrest. “Heaven knows how the word later came to be downgraded to refer to an overgrown footstool,” says French history scholar Joan DeJean, “for the original ottomans were very big affairs indeed”.26 As an object of Orientalism the ottoman’s metamorphosis almost no longer matters, because the term itself seems to exist or float as a symbolic marker for Eastern exoticism. Whether it denotes a stool, storage unit or coffee table, the ottoman appears to have no specific function other than to support the Western need to symbolize the East as the dialectic other. We continue to see examples of this as in a couch set released in 2010 by French designer Noé Duchaufour-Lawrance and his company Cinna called the Ottoman series. The collection uses the term ‘ottoman’ to describe a set of couches done in updated designs of the Moroccan pouffe, showing the connection to Eastern

identity solely by using the term ‘ottoman.’ Featuring soft, rounded edges, and plum upholstery, the designers express how they “could not resist the oriental charms” of creating a lounge “full of ‘zenitude,’ comfort and well being.”27 The term ‘ottoman’ today still connotes the fluctuating idea of the East as a relaxation from Western codes of life.

From a mattress along the wall to a

luxurious couch, or from a multi-use footstool to a contemporary couch set, the ottoman, like the proverbial Western imagining of the “Oriental flying carpet,” defies stable definition by its function alone. Instead, the ottoman rests on a vast history of Orientalism, a construction of Ottoman/ottoman identity which remains tucked into a Western fabrication of Eastern design. As an object or objects redolent of the hidden or repressed fantasies of the European mind, the ottoman cushions the Orientalist discourse. One might wonder, however, if the word ‘ottoman’ will continue to be so freely used or will be phased out by a new awareness of diversity and globalism seated within the contemporary, post-colonial world. Notes

1. Merriam-Webster Incorporated, “ottoman,” Merriam-Webster Dictionary, last modified 2018, www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/ottoman 2. Edward Said, Orientalism, (New York: Vintage Books, 1994), pp. 1-2. 3. Gülen Çervik, “American Style or Turkish Chair: The Triumph of Bodily Comfort,” in Journal of Design History 23 No. 4 (2010): pg. 368. 4. “A History of the Sofa in 30 Seconds,” sofasofa, last modified 2016, www.sofasofa.co.uk/blog/ history-sofa-30-seconds/. 5. M. Şükrü Hanioğlu, in A Brief History of the Late Ottoman Empire, (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2008), pg. 28. 68

6. Çervik, 369. 7. Joan DeJean, in The Age of Comfort, (New York: Bloomsbury, 2010), pg. 103. 8. “The Furniture Repository of the Crown,” translation by the author. 9. “History of the Mobilier National,” Mobilier National, www.mobiliernational.culture.gouv.fr/ en/history/history. 10. DeJean, 113. 11. Ibid, 123. 12. Carolina Arevalo, “Madame de Pompadour and Turquerie,” Objective, no. 2 (Spring/Summer 2016): 54-55. 13. Said, 22-23. 14. Ibid. 15. Ibid. 16. Çervik, 369. 17. Mimi Hellman, “Furniture, Sociability, and the Work of Leisure in Eighteenth-Century France,” in Eighteenth-Century, 32, No. 4 (Summer 1999): pg. 417. 18. Srinivas Aravamudan, in Enlightenment Orientalism: Resisting the Rise of the Novel, (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2012), pg. 185. 19. Liz Bellamy, in Commerce, Morality and the Eighteenth-Century Novel, (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998), pg. 61. 20. Roth Rodris, “Oriental Carpet Furniture: A Furnishing Fashion in the West in the Late Nineteenth Century,” in Studies in the Decorative Arts 11, No. 2 (Spring-Summer 2004): pg. 26. 21. Marina Warner, “The Couch: A Case History,” in Stranger Magic: Charmed States and the Arabian Nights, (Boston: Belknap Press, 2013), 410. 22. Ibid. 23. Paul Oliver, Hinduism and the 1960s: The Rise of a Counter-Culture, (New York: Bloomsbury, 2014), ebook. 24. Ibid. 25. “Period Style: 1960s,” in BBC Homes, last modified 17 September, 2014, www.bbc.co.uk/ homes/design/period_1960s.shtml. 26. DeJean, 123. 27. Noé Duchaufour-Lawrance, “Ottoman: Description,” Cinna™, last modified 2016, www. cinna.fr/la-collection/sejour/canapes/ottoman/ 69 article/ottoman.

A Perspective on Art of Native America Erin Monique Grant Hopi Member of The Colorado River Indian Tribes

It was the evening of the first viewing and reception of Art of

Native America: The Charles and Valerie Diker Collection at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, and I was nervously getting ready to attend the event. Unexpectedly, I came across a Facebook post by First American Art Magazine, a Native American-led publication devoted to the promotion of visual, literary and performing arts by indigenous peoples of the Americas.1 The post asked whether the Met exhibition should be considered “inclusion or assimilation” because the collection of indigenous objects set for display in The Met’s American Wing had been reclassified as “American Art.”2 The question prompted me to rethink not only my own contribution to the exhibition as an intern in the American Wing, but also how I perceived the presentation of the show later that night.

Eight months before the opening of the show, I began my Spring 2018 student internship in The Met’s American Wing. A major aspect of my duties as an intern was to research the provenance of the approximately 100 Native American objects that came into the department as a promised gift from art collectors Charles and Valerie Diker. The purpose of my research was to initiate the registration of the promised gifts under the

First-phase chief’s blanket, ca. 1840; Diné/Navajo culture, Arizona; handspun undyed and indigo-dyed Churro fleece and raveled lac-dyed bayeta; The Charles and Valerie Diker Collection of Native American Art, The Metropolitan Museum of Art 70

Tunic and leggings, ca. 1890; Tlingit culture, Alaska; cedar bark, mountain sheep wool and dye; The Charles and Valerie Diker Collection of Native American Art, The Metropolitan Museum of Art


Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA).3 NAGPRA is a federal law that allows lineal descendants, American Indian tribes and Native Hawaiian organizations to regain possession of cultural items from publicly-funded institutions.4 In this case, once The Met gains ownership of the Diker collection, the museum has to make a public notice of ownership, contact Native American tribes that may have a relationship to such objects and determine if there is an interest in repatriation. For many complex reasons, while some indigenous objects are repatriated from museums and other public organizations, many others stay in their locations with the permission of tribes and/or lineal descendants or even due to lack of interest. The compliance of publicly-funded museums with NAGPRA protocol is essential; failure to act in accordance can result in high civil penalties.

Throughout my semester, I continuously overheard details about the Dikers and their

Upper East Side apartment where many of these indigenous objects were on private display. I discovered that this couple was known to collect mainly modern and contemporary American painting and sculpture by such famous artists as Mark Rothko and Louise Nevelson, among others.5 The couple made a name for themselves in New York City after Charles Diker served as a trustee and founding chairman for prominent museums and other establishments in the city.6 Yet when it comes to their collection of indigenous works, their collecting practice is best described as encyclopedic, considering that it includes works from indigenous tribes across the country. Throughout my internship, I felt I could not escape the repetition of the exhibition’s objective to present the objects as “American Art.” News continued to erupt about the upcoming exhibition and its objective, and even the Director of The Met explained the show’s aim was “to transform The Met’s ability to more fully display the development of American art.”7

Soon enough, my American Wing internship ended, the summer months passed and I

was brought back to The Met for the opening of the Art of Native America. The evening was October 2, 2018, approximately a week before Columbus Day. As I was walking into The Charles Engelhard Court gallery of The Met, a stranger asked me, “are you really Native American?” Temporarily, I disregarded the insult as I had been anxiously waiting to see the objects.

Upon entry to the exhibition gallery, visitors are first shown a text panel that respectfully

acknowledges The Met’s location positioned on the original homeland of the Lenni-Lenape and two traditional clothing pieces from the Arctic and Northwest Coast — two of the eight indigenous regions highlighted throughout the show. The rest of the locations include the Woodlands, Plains, Plateau, California, Great Basin and the Southwest, and each object is placed in accordance with its region throughout the open-floor layout. The walls of the show are gray, and one wall holds a small illustration mapping out the eight indigenous regions and providing summarizations of each area. As for the 100 objects, they are enclosed in vitrines and accompanied with labels written by Native and non-Native scholars. The collection’s notable strengths include “sculpture from British Columbia and Alaska, California baskets, pottery from southwestern pueblos, Plains drawings and regalia, and rare 72

accessories from the eastern Woodlands.”8

Since the opening of the exhibition, The Met has been greeted with heavy criticism

ranging from its museum labels to the entire collection on display. There are some criticisms that I could refute, such as the presumption that no Native American community members or no Native American community members or scholars were consulted in the making of the exhibition, but there are other arguments with which I agree. I acknowledge and recognize that there are multiple ethical issues and assumptions surrounding this collection, but my initial criticism of the exhibition is about the presentation of the indigenous objects. During my first few visits to the show, I felt the gallery space resembled a laboratory as I viewed these immaculate objects contained in their vitrines in a bleak room with minimal wall texts. Conceivably, the choice of display or the exhibition’s goal was to have these works stand alone and be appealing for their aesthetic appearance, but instead these objects felt sterile. To my mind The Met missed an important opportunity to provide context about the makers, the communities and the land from which these objects (and/or their original form) descended. The lack of context is significant because some of the works on view are single versions of their forms, such as one Hopi Katsina or a single Tlingit Tunic. This becomes a problem because viewers are unable to see the depth and variety of these forms. These pieces deserve visual aids and media that can contextualize and give respect to the people, the communities and homelands that produced them. Furthermore, some of the pieces are meant to be living spirits and do not deserve to live in a room that resembles a laboratory. For comparison, in the galleries next door to the exhibition, Federal Style furniture is arranged in an earlyAmerican home setting that enriches its meaning and overall presentation. With the context of these objects stripped away, I understand why some would answer the question asked on Facebook by First American Art Magazine—whether the exhibition represented “inclusion or assimilation”—as “assimilation.” The pieces on display were no longer works by the indigenous but instead assimilated into “American Art” as a whole.

In fact, many indigenous activists, organizations and communities would call for the

complete removal of objects from The Met with the argument that these objects are ceremonial and sacred and therefore do not belong in a museum at all and should be placed back in their original communities.9 The Met’s plan to call the objects “American Art” (which strips away the sanctity of these works) temporarily validates their presence in the museum and works for NAGPRA protocol. It should also be noted, however, that when museum objects are returned to their original indigenous communities through the NAGPRA process, they are labeled as ‘cultural items’ instead of ‘art.’ Previous acknowledgement of the sensitive nature of similar indigenous works and their presence in institutions is why this genre of work is no longer called “primitive art.” By relabeling the works from the Diker collection as “American Art,” The Met is simply using another term to label them as Euro-American. There seems to be a misconception that branding these objects as “American Art” in the same fashion as the portraits that fill the American Wing is an act of respect, but instead it is in keeping with a Euro-Western ideal. The public needs to understand that in many instances, indigenous communities and tribes have lost their original land through European colonization, including some tribes on the 73

Shoulder bag (missing strap), ca. 1800; Anishinaab, possibly Mississauga Ojibwa culture, Ontario, Michigan, or Wisconsin; native-tanned leather, porcupine quills, dye, glass beads, silk ribbon, metal cones, and deer hair; The Charles and Valerie Diker Collection of Native American Art, The Metropolitan Museum of Art

East Coast. These objects can often be the last original remnants of a rich storytelling history, and so it can be incredibly disheartening for these communities to see their objects enclosed in The Met’s vitrines. Ultimately, when The Met accepted the promised gifts from one of the wealthiest art collectors on the Upper East Side, they also took on the responsibility of these objects and their complex histories and spiritual ties to their indigenous communities.

As the exhibition continues and The Met follows NAGPRA protocol for its accessioned

objects, the Art of Native America can become an incredible opportunity for The Met to further educate themselves and their local visitors about the many Native American cultures represented — especially those closest regionally. In the same way that many of these objects once functioned as teaching tools for younger generations within indigenous communities, they can now serve to educate The Met staff and their visitors. Perhaps then the insulting question regarding my ethnicity would be my last. I am hopeful that The Met will rework this exhibition design and employ Native American scholars in The Met’s


American Wing. It is integral for a preeminent art institution such as The Met to utilize indigenous scholars. It is integral for a preeminent art institution such as The Met to utilize indigenous scholars because they have an understanding or familiarity with ancestral objects that cannot be taught with an art history textbook.

During my student internship in the American Wing, I was welcomed by the many

women (there were no men in the department at the time) of the department who gave me an unforgettable experience for which I will always be grateful. I appreciated their transparency and honesty about the exhibition, and to this day I applaud the department for their openness to all input regarding this show and for striving to work with these objects in a respectful manner. Art of Native America: The Charles and Valerie Diker Collection is a momentous occasion for visitors not only to view incredible works made by Native American tribes and communities across the country but also to realize the tumultuous origins of such an exhibition. Notes 1. First American Art Magazine Facebook page, accessed October 2, 2018, http://www.facebook.com/ FirstAmericanArt/. “About Us,” First American Art Magazine, http://firstamericanartmagazine.com/ about-us/. 2. Gabriella Angeleti, “Metropolitan Museum of Art Reclassifies Status of Native American Art for New Exhibition,” The Art Newspaper, October 2, 2018, http://theartnewspaper.com/preview/metreclassifies-status-of-native-american-art. 3. “National NAGPRA,” National Park Service: U.S. Department of the Interior, accessed November 1, 2018, www.nps.gov/nagpra/. 4. National NAGPRA,” National Park Service: U.S. Department of the Interior, accessed November 1, 2018, www.nps.gov/nagpra/. 5. Randy Kennedy, “Native American Treasures Head to the Met, This Time as American Art,” The New York Times, April 6, 2017, https://www.nytimes.com/2017/04/06/arts/design/native-americantreasures-head-to-the-met-this-time-as-american-art.html. 6. “A Shared Love of the Arts,” Harvard Art Museums, May 12, 2014, www.harvardartmuseums. org/article/a-shared-love-of-the-arts. 7. “Art of Native America: The Charles and Valerie Diker Collection,” The Met Press, accessed November 1, 2018, www.metmuseum.org/press/exhibitions/2018/art-of-native-america. 8. “Art of Native America: The Charles and Valerie Diker Collection,” The Metropolitan Museum of Art, accessed November 1, 2018, www.metmuseum.org/exhibitions/listings/2018/art-of-nativeamerica-diker-collection. 9. Gabriella Angeleti, “Native American Group Denounced Met’s Exhibition of indigenous objects,” The Art Newspaper, November 6, 2018, www.theartnewspaper.com/news/native-american-groupdenounces-met-s-exhibition-of-indigenous-objects. 75

Indian Market and Festival, Eiteljorg Museum of American Indians and Western Art, Indianapolis, Indiana

The Indian Market in Santa Fe is the

Indian Markets: The Future of Native American Art and Craft in the Marketplace Sophia Salsbery

largest market in the United States for Native American art. Always held on the third weekend in August, this two-day event attracts 75,000 to 125,000 people and brings in over twenty million dollars in revenue to the artists, the city, and the businesses of the Santa Fe area.1 Sponsored by the Southwestern Association of Indian Arts (SWAIA), the market shows the work of 1,000 vetted artists who are then judged and awarded prize money that can amount to sixty thousand dollars over three hundred categories.2 Today, additional cultural events, including antique art shows and auctions, gallery and museum openings, a live auction, a film festival, special artist demonstrations, fashion shows and musical performances, start almost two weeks in advance of the market. In fact, the Indian Market at Santa Fe is the birthplace of the Indian market 76

and fair concept that is now established in arguably every state across the country.

The Santa Fe Market began in 1922 and

has an interesting and intricate history. Tourism to the West had begun when the railroad reached Santa Fe in 1880. By the end of the nineteenth century, America saw an industrial and geographic boom rooted in a combination of capitalism and democracy that promoted the idea of Manifest Destiny alongside westward expansion. Conflicts between the Native Americans and new settlers would not cease until 1890 when on December 29, 500 U.S. soldiers massacred more than 350 Lakota Indians at Wounded Knee on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota.3 But once these early conflicts became less violent, the government was able to construct railroads to service these once out of the way regions. At the same time, the freedom from societal restrictions and masculine-centered power structures of the cities allowed the Southwest to become a haven for educated, wealthy women. This unique situation underlay the eventual explosion of a marketplace for American Indian pieces of art and craft objects. The Anglo-American tourist industry continues today in the Southwest, but how people understand Native American art in general is disputed amongst scholars, collectors, and artists. The way people look at Native American art, ethnographic and artistic interpretations of Native American art by scholars, collectors, and the artists have changed. This essay identifies the historical basis of the American Indian marketplace as a whole, the transformation of the marketplace in the twentieth century, and the current state of the marketplace for Native American art and craft. The essay includes my own interviews with Native American artists, Roxanne Swentzell (Santa 77

Clara Pueblo), Gail Tremblay (Mi’kmaq and Onondaga), and Katrina Mitten (Miami Tribe of Oklahoma). Not only has the Santa Fe market evolved, but the manner in which Native American art is displayed has also changed within the last thirty years. Categorizing Native American art offers more confusion than clarity. It became problematic when applied to regions and mediums, which may have been successful when establishing a baseline for analyzing and discussing both antique and contemporary Native American works, but becomes difficult when it joins together various identifiers such as regions, nations or tribes, and mediums, which today do not always line up in neatly labelled ethnographic categories.

The various papers, books, and articles on

Native American art in the marketplace tend to narrowly categorize the art. As Margaret Dubin notes, this categorization is often delineated through different models; the culture-area model, which separates works based on cultural origin; or the single medium model, which divides Native American art production into categories such as baskets, woodcarvings, paintings, etc. This can be even further distinguished by fixating on regional styles paired with medium, with Southwest Pueblo pottery, Pacific Northwest totem poles, and Plains beadwork being examples of this. The final and most obscure categorization occurs when works are segregated as folk, tourist, or fine art, a taxonomy often implemented solely by Anglo-Americans.4 Labeling and categorizing artists by region or a craft related to their tribe has become insufficient. The mobility of Native Americans has led to an overlap in craft traditions, tribes, and locations, which causes confusion if categorizing by tribal labels. Many artists have chosen to live in

Roxanne Swentzell, K'apovi (Sanata Clara Pueblo), b.1962. Don't Shoot, coiled/hand built, modeled, and painted figure, 1990. Courtesy of the National Museum of the American Indian.

the Southwest due to its artistic notoriety, marketplace influenced the craft itself. The but their tribal roots are in another region. burgeoning tourism industry and the various For example, Tremblay moved from the anthropological institutions that arose in Northeast to the Pacific Northwest, picking the first half of the twentieth century had up different craft traditions, such as basketry, a large impact on how objects went from rather than ribbon-work which is more often personal, familial objects to commodified associated with her tribe. objects for the Anglo-tourist. For example, the commodification of Pueblo pottery To begin analyzing how Native American resulted in four changes: reduction in size for craft currently situates itself within the art easy transportation, simplification of design market, it is necessary to establish how the and surface finish that fit with the popular


Art Deco style, pseudo-ceremonialism, and intentional archaism, the last two adding a false sense of authenticity and meaning to objects that may not have been there by the tribe’s set of rituals and traditions.5 Anglo-led institutions and their leaders of the Southwest region began identifying “authentic” craft, creating a divide between what was deemed authentic craft traditions by their anthropological digs and ethnographic studies and the traditions of the American Indians themselves.

Smaller objects that were easily

transportable ignited a dissemination of native ‘art,’ resulting in an Indian craze that started in 1900 and ended during World War I.6 The Museum of New Mexico’s director at the time, Edgar L. Hewett, and archaeologist and assistant director, Kenneth Chapman, startled by this commodification and perceived abandonment of ‘racial purity,’ sought new ways to sell Native American art outside the realm of trade stores and curio shops. On September 4, 1922, the first

Roxanne Swentzell, K'apovi (Sanata Clara Pueblo), b.1962. Imprisoned Clown, coiled/hand built, modeled, and painted figure, ca. 1999. Courtesy of the National Museum of the American Indian.


fair, Southwest Indian Fair and Arts and Crafts Exhibition, was held inside of the National Guard Armory. The curators displayed antique Native objects alongside contemporary pieces from the Museum of New Mexico and New Mexico Historical Society’s collection from American Indians in the region. The fair was part of the Santa Fe Fiesta, founded in 1912, and was then reinstated after World War I and again after World War II as a community celebration built around public historical events and used to promote tourism.7 Admission to the market was charged to everyone except Native Americans wearing traditional clothing. Entries were screened and selected by museum staff, who also served as the judges, awarding cash prizes among sixty-three categories. The Museum was responsible for selling the items and therefore attempting to cut out the middlemen, dealers, and curio shop owners. In 1931, the Indian Fair Committee was established and became part of the Arts and Crafts Committee of the New Mexico Association on Indian Affairs (NMAIA). Their first major act was to move the fair out to the pueblos and reservations, where it remained until it was moved back to Santa Fe in 1936 due to lack of foot traffic and buyers. In 1936, Maria Cabot, secretary of NMAIA, initiated the summer Saturday Indian Markets, again awarding cash prizes. A major difference with this reinstated Santa Fe market was that Native Americans could display and sell their wares themselves. The committee placed small stickers on the pots that were deemed the “best.”8 This model for the fair continued into the postwar period and remains the framework for today’s Santa Fe market, emphasizing the direct connection to the Native artists, a concept that would not reach the Gallup Inter-Tribal Ceremonial and Fair in New Mexico until the 1970’s.9

By 1985, the Santa Fe market saw great

expansion, becoming broader in terms of participating artists and variety of media and less specific in selection of who exhibited. During the 2000s, the market grew to one thousand exhibitors on average, and the two-day event began to include cultural and educational programs in the week leading up to the market.10 As impressive as the Santa Fe market continues to be, the broader Southwest is home to an extraordinary level of Native American craft and artistry. During the same week as the Santa Fe Market, the surrounding area hosts the Antique American Indian Art Show, the Indigenous Fine Art Market, and the Zuni Show. Other markets and fairs with a strong position in the Southwest include New Mexico’s Indian Arts and Crafts Association Spring Wholesale Market in Albuquerque, and, in Arizona, the Prescott Indian Art Market, The Heard Museum Guild Indian Fair & Market and the Pueblo Grande Museum Auxiliary Indian Market in Phoenix. Jackson Rushing mentions in his introduction to the catalog of the Eiteljorg Fellowship for Native American Fine Art that juried prizes have been given out at these shows and markets since the 1920’s, but until recently, these distinctions were awarded by non-Indians.11 This misguided attempt to promote ‘high quality’ art at Santa Fe frustrated even the best potters. The competitive aspect of these markets initiates a very personal discourse for the Native artists, and both Diego Romero and Roxanne Swentzell have remarked on their distaste for how awards are handled.12 Swentzell states: I personally do not like the way things are judged for the awards and what it does to the buyers. The artwork of Indian Market is very high quality and to have it judged is very disrespectful. I think people shouldn't rely on someone else’s judgement of the value of


something but learn to look for themselves and decide from a deep sense of their own being.13

The strange behavior of buyers can best be expressed through Bruce Bernstein’s research on ‘booth-sitters,’ a phenomenon which promotes the use of ribbons and instills a sense of urgency for buyers to get ‘Best of Show’ pieces that have been awarded the Friday night of the Santa Fe market. Often patrons and collectors will wait at booths hours before the artist even arrives at their tent. While ‘booth-sitting’ has become a passing fad, collectors will still go to great lengths to get the pieces they want most. One example of this happened during one of Katrina Mitten’s trips to Santa Fe. Mitten had a piece, the Buffalo Rider, in the competition. The piece did not place, but it spoke to a European couple. The European man walked the booths in the early morning hours before the market to find Mitten, having forgotten to write her booth number down. When he found Mitten, he bought the piece before the market even opened.

This level of collector rarely exists beyond

the Southwest marketplace, but the need to show distinctions still remains. Mitten has participated and won nineteen out of the twenty-four years of the Eiteljorg Indian Market and Festival and as a result has accrued an impressive amount of ribbons. A judge mentioned that she should get out her ribbons so buyers knew that they were buying pieces from a winner. She did and placed them in a large bin that she set out at her booth.14 The fixation on the ribbons parallels the same obsessive quality of those collectors that Bernstein describes as ‘booth-sitters.’ Instead of looking at the artwork, the collectors are drawn to the 81

ribbons. In regard to the competition as a whole, the same artists continue to win, especially at Santa Fe, but Mitten takes a positive look at the competition: …it pushes me to get a piece done for that market…I’m really trying to prove myself and get recognition for not only myself, that’s what gets you sales of your work… by receiving acknowledgement by juries and judges but I’m also wanting to bring attention to my people here [Oklahoma Miami Tribe and the remaining Native peoples in Indiana].”

She has found that people, even collectors, often think she is from Florida. Buyers are used to the names of the Hopi, Navajo, Sioux, Lakota, and Dakota. Mitten does not hold this against collectors, although it does change her agenda by focusing on telling stories and legends of her clan and tribe.15 Views on whether competition enhances or detracts from the markets are largely opinion-based, and the way competitions function also varies from market to market. Nevertheless, it remains that prize-winning at an Indian Market has become the most important measure of an artist’s success.

Two early, important instances of Native

American art being promoted outside the Native market settings occurred before the end of World War II at the 1931 Exposition of Indian Tribal Art in New York City and the 1941 Indian Art of the United States exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art. The latter, promoted “authenticity,” the “hand-made,” and the idea of craft that would continue even after many Native American pieces would be labelled as art. Noted scholar and collector of Native American art, Ralph Coe writes that trade has always been a part of Native American culture, but these terms, surrounding the discussion of craft and art,

Gail Tremblay, Onondaga/Mi'kmaq, b. 1945. Strawberry and Chocolate Basket, wicker-plaited and fancy plaited weave techniques, 16mm film, film full-coat, twine/string, 2000. Courtesy of the National Museum of the American Indian.


and the marketplace fairs are examples of an Anglo-construction of what the marketplace should be for Native American art.16 The 1970’s saw the rise of Native Indian art in auction house settings, and this became the primary method of transferring Native American antiques and artifacts. Certain sales of Native American art collections set the mark: the Birdie Brown Estate (1970), Sotheby’s New York’s Greene collection auction (1971), the C. G. Wallace collection (1975), and Christie’s London’s James Hooper sale (1977).17 Importantly, the catalogs for these sales stimulated the marketplace and initiated a discourse on American Indian art within a more structured and typical ‘art’ setting than fairs. Although ethnographical research and interest in Native American art grew, the late 1970’s still saw an emphasis on its historical significance rather than its artistic form.18 Christie’s and Sotheby’s continue to hold two major Native American auctions in November and May at their New York City locations.

The interest in historical significance

and the contextual implications of these ‘white’ fine art spaces, created by AngloAmerican dealers for an Anglo-American audience, is a significant development in the progression of Native American art. It removed the Native American person and language from the sale of their art. This rise in designated “fine art” spaces for American Indian art was perpetuated by the growing popularity of Native American aesthetics in the 1980’s, and, by the 1990’s, contemporary Native American art began to appear regularly outside the designated Indian art spaces.19 In juxtaposition to these white-walled spaces, Roxanne Swentzell’s gallery in Santa Fe is evidence that these “fine-art” types of spaces are not the only ones selling Native American art. 83

The Tower Gallery was initially an unfinished, adobe tower that stood untouched for ten years before Swentzell approached the Governor of the Pojoaque Pueblo requesting to use it; he agreed on the condition that they finish it. They did, and it now creates a unique space that connects Swentzell to her familial traditions and gives her pieces a cultural context.

With the new millennium, a novel space

opened to first-world countries: the internet. While this has been a great way for artists to reach out to more people, it can also be problematic. Swentzell does not believe that the internet is a great place to sell art: I think art needs to be looked at and felt in person to get a real sense of it. Sure, looking at something on the internet is helpful when you aren't able to be there in person, but I still believe location matters.20

Mitten agrees. Since many of her pieces tell a story, it can be difficult to express this when not face-to-face with a buyer. Although Mitten prefers to sell at markets as opposed to galleries or shops, the disengagement expands to encompass her region as a whole. She finds that the Midwest lacks a mouthpiece for Native art and craft. Often, the professional artists who have worked in museums and consistently win prizes move to regions where their work can be noticed, such as the Southwest (Santa Fe), the Pacific Northwest (Seattle), and now Oklahoma, which is becoming a significant player in the marketplace. Tremblay is one of these artists who has moved, leaving her tribal home on the East Coast to move to Seattle, where she has worked in the visual art community for the last twenty years.

Monumental moments in the 1990’s

solidified and created an important space

for the Native American art scene through events such as the Indian Arts and Crafts Act of 1990 and the 1994 opening of the National Museum of the American Indian in New York City. When the Eiteljorg hosted its first market in 1992, and in its first few years, Mitten remembers that there would be a line to get in, while in the last five years the size of the crowds and numbers of collectors are significantly down. There could be several reasons for this, but one, in particular, may be the shift from an “art” market to a cultural festival.21 Making an ethnographical connection to the art market is an idea that harkens back to the discourse on the early Santa Fe Market years and may have resulted from the general increase in cultural events happening in Santa Fe in the last twenty years; however, it be displacing art lovers. Another reason may be that the market features artists from the Southwest instead of seeking out regional artists, which does little to speak to a Midwestern audience. The event also relies on word of mouth rather than advertising for promotion. The inability of the Eiteljorg Indian Market and Fair to reach the right audience may indicate the lack of an audience for any art market at all. Smaller Indian markets in smaller towns continue to face this problem.

Passion, knowledge, and skill in making

these artworks continue to exist throughout the country. Mitten claims bead-working as a part of her identity, while Tremblay mentions that she knows weaving traditions from around the world. Yet a problem that even certain non-Native art faces is the labeling of art as craft that suggests it is either ‘kitsch’ or a ‘hobby.’ Mitten states “people look at my beadwork as more of a craft than a fine art.”22 This idea exists for various reasons among Native American

artists; their objects are hand-made, often of natural materials, and, therefore, they are easily undervalued; younger artists often sell their pieces for much less than their worth. Mitten used to sell her pieces – today worth three hundred dollars – at powwows for twenty dollars. Even certain motifs are labeled as more ‘native’ than others. Mitten mentions that her corn earrings and spirit-being necklaces sell the most, as well as those pieces that show wolves, bears, or buffaloes. The connection between art and handcraft among Native artists leads to the interpretation of these pieces as ‘just’ a way to preserve Native traditions: “…it was more like a trinket or a souvenir to them, it wasn’t being looked at as art even to [the buyer’s].”23 The Red Earth powwow in Oklahoma exemplifies this corruption. Native Americans are sometimes found there selling Asian goods with their names scratched on them. In response to this corruption, several states enacted their own laws. Alaska passed the Silver Hand Bill in 2008, finding that half of the $80 million spent on retail sales in Alaska went to commodities labelled as “Alaska Native made,” but up to three-fourths of these goods were not made by Alaskan Natives.24 In New Mexico, a law differentiates between ‘crafted’ and ‘handmade’; “Indian handmade” means using tools and processes that allow the maker to determine shape and design, while “Indian crafted” refers to assembly-line production, usually by Native Americans in factories.25 This problem is often found at places not frequented by major collectors, but the smaller markets have fewer resources to ensure the right procedures are followed.

While all three artists interviewed have a Westernized art education, a problem


which may not change things in time for the next generation, there does seem to be a growing awareness of the lack of diversity in art education along with increased reclaiming of identity on reservations and in Native American communities. Mitten has found that people are often confused by her label “Miami Tribe of Oklahoma”, at markets. She has to explain that Oklahoma (or previously, Indian Territory), is where her tribe physically lives today, but her homeland pre-removal was in Indiana. Tremblay reflects, “the old weavers that I grew up with have all passed on and the new weavers coming up after me, the young ones, they’re experimenting in all kinds of ways.”26 Yet this reclaiming continues to grow, Swentzell adds, “I think the biggest change of the last 30 years is the economy and the way the next generation is less connected to their culture because of the easy access to the rest of the world.”27

Interest in Native American art and craft

is often synonymous with political activity and popular culture trends. For instance, the Arts and Crafts Movement and the Indian Arts and Crafts Act of 1935 were both impacted by the craft movement’s emphasis on the authentic hand-made. The federal government acted to protect American Indian “authenticity,” which ultimately increased the market for Indian art, improved production, and established certification of Indian artists. The American Indian Movement in the 1960s and 1970s and the expansion of the American Indian art into an AngloAmerican marketplace, as noted by the Sotheby and Christie’s sales in the early 1970s, were watershed auctions that brought the discussion of Native American legal rights to the forefront with art and craft. Most recently, the protests around the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL), have 85

sparked a reclaiming of tradition within art, influencing various American Indians to take a more political stance with their art. Often, however, Native art and craft is created within a non-Native, Western view, placing art in a specified context, such as Anglo-generated terms as “tourist art”, “curio trade”, and “trade object”. It should be made explicitly clear that the Native American community is in no way as homogenous as the non-Native description of American Indians might suggest. While Pan-Indianism, a movement that focuses on the inclusion of Native identities regardless of nation or tribe affiliations, exists in events and groups such as powwows and national and local Indian associations, the traditional Native concepts are still quite individualized based on nation and tribal identities. In 1998, 50% of Native Americans lived off reservations, further complicating the categorization of Indian art.28 A new and growing category of Indian art, ‘protest’ art, sparked reactions in the fall of 2016, and again with the presidency of Donald Trump. Both Mitten and Tremblay have expressed their environmental concerns, and Mitten, in particular, strives to create pieces that show the protests in a positive light, specifically focusing on how different Indian nations and people can come together to work towards an end result. Hopefully, these discourses will generate a growing interest in Indian markets.


1. Bruce Bernstein, “A Story of Creation: Tradition and Authenticity at Santa Fe’s Indian Market” in Changing Hands: Art Without Reservation, 1: Contemporary Native American Art from the Southwest. New York: St. Martin’s Press, (2002), 103-106. 2. Ibid, 103-106 3. Richard Klein, et al. No Reservations: Native American History and Culture in Contemporary Art. Connecticut: The Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum, (2006), 10. 4. Margaret Dubin, Native America Collected: The Culture of an Art World. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, (2001), 5. 5. Bruce Bernstein, Santa Fe Indian Market: A History of Native Arts and the Marketplace. Santa Fe: Museum of New Mexico Press, (2012), 30. 6. Bruce Bernstein, Santa Fe Indian Market: A History of Native Arts and the Marketplace, 36. 7. Bruce Bernstein, The Booth Sitters of Santa Fe’s Indian Market: Making and Maintain Authenticity. American Indian Culture and Research Journal, 31(3): 2007, 59. 8. Bruce Bernstein, Santa Fe Indian Market: A History of Native Arts and the Marketplace. Santa Fe: Museum of New Mexico Press, 2012, 17-27 9. Bruce Bernstein, “A Story of Creation: Tradition and Authenticity at Santa Fe’s Indian 10. Bruce Bernstein, Santa Fe Indian Market: A History of Native Arts and the Marketplace, 1727 11. Jackson A. III Rushing, After The Storm: The Eiteljorg Fellowship for Native American Fine Art, 2001. Indianapolis: Eiteljorg Museum of American Indians and Western Art, 2001, xiii 12. Lorraine Jessepe, “Pueblo ceramists bridge the past and the present”. Indian Country Today. December 23, 2010.

16. Ralph T. Coe, Lost and Found Traditions: Native American Art 1965-1985. New York: University of Washington Press, 1986, 18 17. David M. Roche, “Native Art at Auction: The Role of the Commercial Marketplace in Developing Contemporary Native Art” in Changing Hands: Art Without Reservation, 1: Contemporary Native American Art from the Southwest. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 2002, 155-159 18. Dexter Cirillo, “The New “Traders” and Their Influence on Southwestern Indian Art”, in Changing Hands: Art Without Reservation, 1: Contemporary Native American Art from the Southwest. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 2002, 57-65. 19. Margaret Dubin, Native America Collected: The Culture of an Art World, 5. Exceptions being Scottsdale, Santa Fe, and Seattle. 20. Margaret Dubin, Native America Collected: The Culture of an Art World, 5. Exceptions being Scottsdale, Santa Fe, and Seattle. 21. Interview with the artist, conducted via telephone on April 17, 2017. 22. Ibid. 23. Ibid. 24.Emily Moore, ‘The Silver Hand: Authenticating the Alaska Native Art, Craft and Body’. The Journal of Modern Craft. Vol. 1 (2), July 2008, 199 25. James Brooke, ‘Sales of Indian Crafts Rise and So Do Fakes’. New York Times. August 2, 1997. 26. Interview with Gail Tremblay, conducted via telephone on April 6, 2017. 27. Interview with the artist, conducted via email on April 5, 2017. 28. Margaret Dubin, Native America Collected: The Culture of an Art World, 36.

13. Interview with the artist, conducted via email on April 5, 2017. 14. Interview with the artist, conducted via telephone on April 17, 2017. The Eiteljorg Indian Market and Festival celebrated its 25th anniversary in June 2017. 15. Interview with the artist, conducted via telephone on April 17, 2017. The Eiteljorg Indian Market and Festival celebrated its 25th anniversary in June 2017.


Ribbon Bows and Girandoles: Brilliance in Eighteenth-Century Paris Fashion and Court Culture Lori Ettlinger Gross In eighteenth-century France the custom

of wearing a bow brooch, otherwise known as a bodice ornament, was not merely one of adding decoration to an elaborate arrangement of dress attire. In addition to visual enhancement and allure, it represented financial security. Paired seductively with the deep neckline of a gown, a bejeweled bow was often part of a suite of ornaments referred to as a parure. Such a coordinated set of jewels often included impressive girandole pendant earrings, a necklace, bracelet, ring, and, perhaps, a head ornament—all of which were presented to the owner in a handmade, fitted velvet and leather case. Women were given these pieces as part of a wedding gift, and the very wealthy continued to receive them—or commission them—throughout their lifetimes. Such jewels played an important role in society. They reflected court culture, social custom, and the influence of exoticism accessed through international trade. They also demonstrated advancements in goldsmithing, gem-cutting, and gem-setting. This essay begins with the ribbon bow to illuminate the manufacture, accessibility, and social customs of eighteenth-century Paris adornment. The idea of the ribbon bow ornament may have its origins in the traditional lover’s knot, a motif consisting of two 87

intertwined knots resulting in four knots. The lover’s knot could have developed from the Greek and Roman Heracles knot.1 This amuletic square-shaped knot is seen in antiquity on the handles of vases, jewelry, and even bridal girdles where the motif represents fertility.2 In the seventeenth century, primarily worked in silver and gold, ribbon bows were a prime example of the goldsmith’s skill. Color was added by way of gemstones, often cut en cabochon which was a smooth, unfaceted surface. Seventeenth-century gemstone cutting was technologically primitive. By the eighteenth century, mounting well-faceted gems for both color and scintillation was customary as the art of gem-cutting had advanced prodigiously. An example of an early seventeenthcentury ribbon bow ornament was found in the Cheapside Hoard, the stock of a local London goldsmith comprised of roughly 230 pieces discovered in 1912 and currently distributed among the collections of the Museum of London, the Victoria & Albert Museum and The British Museum.3 A ribbon bow from The Cheapside Hoard is set with rose and step-cut, foil-backed rubies and table-cut diamonds. The lightness of the mounting and delicacy of the design from this early period stands in sharp contrast to later bow ornaments of the eighteenth century which were

Fig. 1. Pendant bowknot; 1750-75; Spain; Emeralds, gold; The Mrs. Robert W. deForest Collection, Gift of her daughters; Collection of the Newark Museum, 50.2238



generously gem-set and mounted in substantial gold and silver settings.

A practical element used to close a

woman’s chemise, ribbon bows became fashionable during the seventeenth century. One particular style of French bow, known as the Sévigné bow, was attributed to Marie de Rabutin-Chantal, Marquise de Sévigné. In a 1665 portrait by Claude Lefèbvre, Madame de Sévigné is wearing a black or dark blue silk and gem-set ribbon bow at the neckline of her dress. By the end of the seventeenth century, the wearing of multiple ribbon bows on the bodice of a dress became a popular fashion device.4 By the eighteenth century, jeweled versions replaced earlier textile examples.

Clothing styles were changing in the early

eighteenth century, and the stomacher, a triangular area beginning just below the décolletage and extending down to just below the waistline, became a focal point for ornamentation on the body. The upside-down triangular shape of the stomacher, narrowing to a point at or below the waist, emphasized and encouraged a feminine hourglass silhouette.5 While the function of the stomacher was practical— it provided greater comfort to the wearer—it also served as a blank canvas for some of the most elaborate and costly jewels ever produced by the eighteenthcentury goldsmith. One common type of adornment for the stomacher was a suite of three or more dress ornaments of the same motif, such as a bow, but graduated in size; this was known as échelle, meaning a ladder or gradation.6

Social gestures and customs influenced Fig. 2. Necklace; ca. 1760; Lisbon, Portugal; Silver and topaz; Purchase 2017 Barbara Harrison Wescott Fund; Collection of the Newark Museum, 2017.9

a sophisticated system of dressing that marked a significant change from the seventeenth century to the eighteenth century.7 By the time the French king Louis XV (r. 1715-1774) had come to power, the luxuries of Louis XIV’s court had been abandoned. The economy, which had experienced a downturn under Louis XIV, was encouraged by agricultural improvements and the expansion of trade. Paris was the social center for princely households and a rising middle class eager to show off its newfound wealth.8 In celebration of new social standing, the purchase of elaborate jewelry became a symbol as well as a form of financial security should economic tides change again. Given Louis XV’s relaxed standards—save for the sumptuary laws allowing only noble households the privilege of wearing the costliest jewels— courtiers, and those who aspired to join their rank, were given permission to purchase jewels that served as an indication of their social arrival. The reigning monarch and his coterie set the standard for this by displaying what was considered luxurious.

Women’s clothes were sophisticated,

highly ornamental, and defined by complex construction and the costly silk textiles from which they were made. The typical court dress celebrated the female form as exaggerated and architecturally structured rather than a natural outline of the body.9 The robe à la Française was considered formal court dress until the French Revolution. The stomacher, known as “pieces de corps,” was an integral feature and focal point of the robe à la Française. Queen Marie Leczinska, wife of Louis XV, was known to have worn elaborate examples mounted with large diamonds from the state collection that left no part of her stomacher 90

unadorned. She was often depicted wearing these jewels in portraiture.10 Wide panniers and tall hair arrangements defined the breadth and height of a woman’s silhouette. Elaborate and gem-laden girandole earrings worked to complement the exaggerated proportions of these complex hairstyles. Heavy in weight, these earrings required the additional support of a ribbon looped through a bail at the back of the earrings and woven into the coiffure.11

Within this milieu, there was a shift not only in how jewels were worn and presented, but also in how they were crafted, designed and sold. Jewelry began to be retailed by purveyors of luxury goods. The marchandmerciers—haberdashers and purveyors of clothing, furniture, and luxury goods— grew in influence. On occasion, they also sold gold jewelry, although goldsmiths were still the main suppliers to princely households.12 As jewelry was considered akin to portable cash, often it was used to repay one’s debts, which, in turn, made the once exclusive jewelry accessible at a lower cost. Some marchand-merciers were also gem dealers, offering uncut precious stones while other merchants were supplied with jewelry by the goldsmiths themselves. Due to increased trade and the discovery of Brazilian diamond mines in the early 1700s, diamonds and colored gemstones became widely available. Topaz, a South American gem, first appeared in jewelry in Spain and Iberia in the seventeenth century and became popular during the eighteenth.13 The finest emeralds were found in Colombia and exported to Spain as early as the sixteenth century.14 Sapphires were commonly sourced during this period in Sri Lanka but were considered rare until the nineteenth century.15 A gold and emerald pendant bowknot in The Newark 91

Museum’s collection, circa 1750-75, is typical of the quality of design, gem material, and gemstone cutting of this period (Fig. 1). Goldsmiths were not always gem-cutters and gemstones were quickly becoming the focal point for jewelry design such that gem-cutting became a specialized skill at this time.16 More complex and technical in craftsmanship, the process of jewelry manufacture required distinctions among the trades of designer-goldsmith, gemcutter, and gem-setter. Artisan workshops for jewelry were no longer the single source for these luxury goods, making the retail marketing of jewelry available to those outside the trade, such as the marchandmerciers.

With the division of labor in jewelry-

making more pronounced, and advancements in technology that improved diamond-cutting, the eighteenth century became known as the “Age of Diamonds.” Louis XV and his personal goldsmith, Pierre de Montarsy, elevated the status of jewelry to levels never seen before in Parisian society. Jewelry design oriented itself to the pleasure of the owner with historical references or religious themes no longer the central artistic inspiration as they had been in previous centuries.

Among the prominent goldsmith-jewelers

in eighteenth-century Paris were Ronde, Bapst, Lempereur, and Augustin Duflos, who created the coronation crown for Louis XV. Duflos wrote about fashionable ornament in his 1767 book Recueil de Desseins de Joaillerie, a compendium of jewelry designs.17 Duflos expressed regret that colored gems had been somewhat abandoned by women as he felt that they improved the appearance of certain jewelry

designs.18 Mindful of comfort, Duflos suggested that earrings be mounted with maller gemstones so as to lighten their weight. Not everyone, however, was of the same opinion, and impressively large examples, while rare, still happily survive.

Settings or mountings became lighter,

less apparent, and served to enhance the appearance of gemstones. This was a shift from the ornate gold work produced by metalsmiths during the Renaissance, when gemstones were generally left in their raw state or primitively cut and paired with intricate enamelwork.19 During the eighteenth century, foiling gemstones to enhance their appearance and scintillation became common practice, a technique, however, that dates at least as far back as the Minoan period, 2000 to 1600 B.C.E., as Pliny mentions the foiling of gems in his

writings, describing “…when craftsmen force the opaque stones to become translucent by placing foil beneath them…”20 Foiling involved whole pieces of metal and was not the kind of soft, thin material used in today’s kitchens. Topaz, for example, was backed with brass foil which disappeared behind the golden yellow of the gemstone (Fig. 2).21

Parisian society in the eighteenth century

was about seeing and being seen, and the changes in the materials and manufacture of jewelry coincided with a nuanced wearing and presentation of jewelry. Bodice ornaments such as the ribbon bow and girandole earrings fit into an entire culture of dressing and moving in society. Lighting played an important role in the way people moved, dressed, and comported themselves throughout the day.22 Daylight

Fig. 3. Hair ornament made into a brooch; 174070; England or France; Diamonds, silver, gold; Purchase 2008 Sophronia Anderson Bequest Fund and Membership Endowment Fund; Collection of the Newark Museum, 2008.9


and evening illumination informed how and when jewelry was to be worn and what its purpose was in a social setting. Tallow candles were sooty, drippy, and unreliable sources of light. Beeswax, while far more expensive, gained favor with the wealthy as it burned more cleanly and gave brighter light. By the 1730s, almanacs informed as to the precise rising and setting of the moon—down to the hour and the minute.23 Clocks and watches became more popular during the 1700s such that the timing of social interactions became more regimented. The intricate rules of Parisian politesse followed the hours of the day, which gave social meaning and cultural awareness to the wearing of ornament.

Sociability by candlelight was a kind of

darkened labyrinth of rules, and those who participated were expected to be familiar with these customs. Jewelry played an especially important role in the evening hours. Understanding what to wear, when and how to negotiate a social setting in the seductive amber glow of candlelight was expected.24 Parisian salons were dark, luxurious spaces. Guests were educated on how to enter a room and how to make the most of available light to navigate the space. Rooms were decorated with paintings, tapestries, silver, veneered furnishings, and brilliant porcelain—all of which indicated the wealth and social status of the family living there. This was a kind of formal decorative literacy.25 A keen understanding of these customs could elevate one’s status within society but could also lower it should one prove to be ignorant of the tacit standards by which sophistication was adjudicated.

Appearing visually pleasing and moving

elegantly within the space was a vital part 93

of being socially acceptable in eighteenthcentury Parisian society. Upon arriving at a gathering, a guest needed to immediately take in the scene and devise a plan of how to become a seamless component according to his or her gender, social rank, and marital status in relation to the other guests. Everyone knew the rules of polite society, such that navigating the room had to be done with precision, dignity, and confidence.26

Any available light would catch a reflective

object, including jewelry. A diamond hair ornament such as the one in The Newark Museum, circa 1740-70, later converted to a brooch (Fig. 3), would draw focus to the face, eyes, and coiffure in a room lit only by candlelight. The sociability of ornament served to direct the viewer’s eye, making the subject all the more pleasing to look at. A woman wearing fine jewels was keenly observed. Would she be permitted access to an inner circle of guests chatting in a corner? Or, if she committed a social faux pas, would she be relegated to the sidelines of the room where silver candlesticks sat quietly burning on the mantelpiece? The way the room was decorated required some knowledge of how to comport oneself elegantly and with skill. The use of gilding helped one move through the room: wall lights and fire dogs were easily illuminated even in the dimmest of rooms, thereby delineating their parameters and guiding the guest through these social complexities.27 Among those who aided women in dressing for these occasions were the “revendeuse à la toilette.” A profession that only existed in Paris, this woman was welcome in nearly every Parisian home as she sold such luxuries as lace, textiles, and jewelry.28 For the whole of the eighteenth century,

Paris was the center of production of the finest jewelry with nobles and royalty from abroad commissioning jewels from French goldsmiths. The Parisian jewelry industry also served as inspiration for those abroad whether it be Dona Maria I, Queen of Portugal, who ordered jewels from Parisian firms as well as from Ambroise and Adam Pollet, two goldsmiths working in Lisbon, or Catherine II of Russia, known for her superior collection of jewels.29 France and French culture heavily influenced Russian aristocratic values in the latter half of the eighteenth century. French was commonly spoken among Russian nobility as it was the language of international communication.30 By the 1780s, French-translated fashion journals were disseminated regularly, and these publications provided detailed descriptions of the latest news in jewelry, hairstyles, clothing, and leisure activities.31 Russians, like most Europeans of the time, yielded to Parisian tastes in interior design, cuisine, theater, architecture, and literature.32 French cultural idiosyncrasies evidenced Russia’s enlightenment and sophistication.33

Catherine II of Russia, also known as

Catherine the Great, commissioned Louis XV’s goldsmith and sculptor, FrançoisThomas Germain, and his contemporary, Jacques-Nicolas Roettiers, to create jewels for her pleasure. In time, the Empress’s jewelry eclipsed that of the French Court and nearly every other noble house in Europe.34 Her collection typified the most desirable and innovative jewelry designs of the eighteenth century. She was so enamored with her state jewels that she renovated the Imperial Bedchamber in the southeast corner of the Winter Palace, transforming it into the “Brilliant Room.”35 [French royals kept their jewels under lock and key as well with Marie Antoinette’s

jewelry cabinet still standing in her royal bedchamber in Versailles.] Johann Georgi, a German botanist and geographer who moved to Saint Petersburg at the invitation of the Imperial Russian Academy of Sciences, provides a rare glimpse of the sumptuousness of the Empress’s private chamber, writing: Her room is like a priceless jewel case. The regalia is laid out on a table under a great crystal globe through which everything can be examined in detail… The walls of the room are lined with glass cabinets containing numerous pieces of jewelry set with diamonds and other precious stones as well as insignia and portraits of Her Imperial Majesty, snuff boxes, watches and chains drawing instruments, signet rings, bracelets, sword belts and other priceless treasures…36 Georgi’s detailed account of the Empress’s jewelry chamber, its grand scale and sumptuousness, echoed the power, mineral resources, and access to precious materials that the Empress had at her disposal.37 Catherine’s French-inflected style of ornament not only typified that of the French Court, it also exemplified the reach and emblematic power of those who commissioned it. The supremacy of French jewelry-making during the eighteenth century became the standard by which the world interpreted luxurious adornment. The ribbon bow, originally an elegant if not elevated sartorial emblem, represented the French standard of sophistication, wealth, access, and social ascendancy.


Notes 1. Jack Ogden, Jewellery (London: The Intelligent Layman Publishers Ltd., 2006), 172. 2. Cyrus L. Day, “Knots and Knot Lore." Western Folklore 9, no. 3 (1950): 241. doi:10.2307/1520741.

22. Charissa Bremer-David. “About Time: The Hours of the Day in 18th Century Paris,” in Paris: Life & Luxury in the Eighteenth Century, ed. Charissa Bremer-David (Los Angeles: J. Paul Getty Museum, 2011), 12.

3. Harold Newman, An Illustrated Dictionary of Jewelry (London: Thames and Hudson, 1981), 66.

23. Ibid.

4. Millia Davenport, The Book of Costume (New York: Crown Publishers, 1948), 540. 5. The Kyoto Costume Institute, Fashion: A History From the 18th to the 20th Century: The Collection of the Kyoto Costume Institute, Vol. 1: 18th-19th Century (New York: Taschen, 2006), 26. 6. Harold Newman, An Illustrated Dictionary of Jewelry (London: Thames and Hudson, 1981). 108. 7. Ibid. 8. Jean Lanillier and Marie-Anne Pini, Five Centuries of Jewelry, (New York: Arch Cape Press, 1983), 87. 9. The Kyoto Costume Institute, Fashion: A History From the 18th to the 20th Century: The Collection of the Kyoto Costume Institute, Vol. 1: 18th-19th Century, 27. 10. Bernard Morel, The French Crown Jewels, (Antwerp: Fonds Mercator, 1988),194. 11. Ibid., 29. 12. Ibid. 13. Ibid.,186. 14. https://www.gia.edu/doc/Emeralds-ofColombia.pdf. Accessed December 28, 2018. 15. Jack Ogden, Jewellery (London: The Intelligent Layman Publishers Ltd., 2006),188. 16. Bernard Morel, The French Crown Jewels, (Antwerp: Fonds Mercator, 1988),194. 17. Ibid., 325. 18. Ibid., 116. 19. Ibid., 78. 20. Kurt Nassau, “The Early History of Gemstone Treatments,” Gems & Gemology 20, No. 1, (Spring 1984): 23. 95

21. Ibid.

24. Mimi Hellman, “Enchanted Night,” in Paris: Life & Luxury in the Eighteenth Century, ed. Charissa Bremer-David (Los Angeles: J. Paul Getty Museum, 2011), 94. 25. Ibid. 26. Ibid. 27. Ibid., 100. 28. Ibid., 95. 29. Diana Scarisbrick, The S.J. Phillips Collection of the Jewels of Portugal, (London: S.J. Phillips, 2017), 14. 30. Oleg Neverov, "Catherine the Great: Public and Private Collector,” The British Art Journal 2, no. 2 (2000): 28. http://www.jstor.org.libproxy. newschool.edu/stable/41615060. 31. Ibid., 195. 32. Ibid., 205. 33. Ibid., 248. 34. Jean Lanillier and Marie-Anne Pini, Five Centuries of Jewelry, (New York: Arch Cape Press, 1983), 122. 35. Scarisbrick, Diana. “Imperial Splendor: Catherine II & Her Jewelry.” Sotheby’s. http:// www.sothebys.com/en/news-video/blogs/ all-blogs/all-that-glitters/2016/10/imperialsplendour-catherine-the-great-and-her-jewllery. html 36. Ibid. 37. Ibid.

Poster, There Is No Finish Line, 1977; Designed by John Brown & Partners; USA; offset lithograph on paper; Gift of Various Donors; Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum, 1981-29-205; Photo: Matt Flynn © Smithsonian Institution

As Roberta “Bobbi” Gibb hid in a bush

The Story of the Jogbra Sydney Friedman

near the starting line of the 1966 Boston Marathon, her nerves kicked in. She was about to join the race as an unauthorized participant. Women were prohibited from enrolling in the Marathon, but Gibb knew that she, and women in general, could succeed at this athletic challenge. After almost half the registered runners passed her hiding spot, Gibb emerged from the bushes wearing her brother’s sweatshirt and long shorts, obscuring her body. As she ran, and her temperature rose, she shed her sweatshirt, revealing a black one-piece bathing suit and her gender. She completed the 26.2-mile run in three hours and twenty-one minutes, an impressive time for men and women alike.1 While her primary goal was to prove to herself that she could run a marathon, Gibb was also driven to demonstrate that women were strong enough to log just as many miles as men. She had previously appealed to the Marathon Commission for 96

a request to register and been denied, with the committee responding that, “a female is too frail for long distance running.”2

Determined to prove the stubborn men

wrong, she ran the race anyway. In a Sports Illustrated interview following the event, Gibb commented, “I did want to make people see something different that would shake them up a little bit, maybe change some traditional attitudes.”3

With trailblazers like Bobbi Gibb,

perceptions of women’s athletic abilities began to change. In 1964, Patsy Mink, a descendant of Japanese parents, was the first woman of color to be elected to Congress, and, in 1972, she co-authored landmark legislation. Her contribution to the United States Education Amendments of 1972, Title IX, helped to usher in a new era of opportunity for female athletes. Title IX is a “comprehensive federal law that prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex in any federally funded education program or activity.”4 When this bill became law on June 23, 1972, millions of girls and women across the country became entitled to new opportunities in public schools, colleges, and universities.

Title IX created the biggest ripple in

athletic departments at educational institutions and community centers. Before it, young women would be considered lucky to have access to well-developed athletic programs in one or two sports. Now they were legally entitled to half of a school’s athletic budget to create new teams, train with skilled coaches, and be provided with specialized equipment. A stream of impressive female athletes rose to national attention and inspired young girls to join these teams. 97

Just a few months after Title IX went into effect, tennis player Billie Jean King became the first female to be named Sportsman of the Year by Sports Illustrated, proving that women, just like men, deserved to be lauded for their physical prowess. (She shared the title with John Wooten, basketball coach for UCLA.) The following summer, in 1973, King further promoted women’s athletic ability in a legendary exhibition tennis match. In three sets, she defeated Bobby Riggs in the widely televised “Battle of the Sexes” program. Massive audiences tuned in to see the match, catapulting the question of women’s athletic ability into the national conversation.5

The influence of such athletes as Gibb and

King, in addition to the implementation of Title IX, inspired a huge wave of female athletes to join community and schoolbased teams in the 1970s. The number of girls participating in both high school and college sports jumped exponentially during the decade. “According to figures from the National Federation of State High School Associations, the number of girls competing had already increased from 249,015 in 1970-71 to 817,073 in 1972-73, a threefold increase in just two years, and then again to 1,300,109 in 1973-74.”6 These athletes had largely been self-taught or lightly coached, relying mostly on their drive to compete and innate athletic ability. This enthusiastic pool of female athletes now needed capable coaches and specialized equipment to compete and prove to schools that the legislative order was beneficial to the student body.

Up to this point sports attire designed

for the female body was limited. And in sports where women had not traditionally participated, specialized equipment options

were essentially nonexistent. In training for her marathon, Bobbi Gibb resorted to wearing boy’s running shoes, which quickly gave her blisters. To reduce the bounce of her breasts while running, Gibb tried to wrap an ACE bandage around her chest. When that proved uncomfortable and not supportive enough, she resorted to wearing a bathing suit instead.7

In fact, as a generation of women began

exercising, they faced the uncomfortable problem of bouncing breasts. As Colette Dowling writes, “women’s breasts have been standard symbols of women’s frailty through the ages.”8 By the mid-1970s it was clear that women could be venerable athletes, and that female bodies could handle the physical strain of sport. But this did not eliminate the pain of bouncing breasts for exercising women. Although they sit on top of the pectoral muscles,

breasts are mostly composed of fat and glandular tissue and have very little builtin support. They are held in position by Cooper’s Ligament, named for the 19thcentury doctor who discovered the internal place-holding mechanics.9 However, this connective tissue has relatively little strength, and modern researchers have concluded that “the skin appears to provide most of the support for the breast in regards to limiting breast movement.”10 The resulting discomfort, induced by aerobic activity, could be painful enough to force girls to quit their sports teams.

In the generations before women began

competing as serious athletes, few supportive options were available. As the bicycle craze swept the nation, and crossed gender lines, the standard corset was redesigned with a more athletic orientation. Ferris, a New York-based clothing brand,

Running Tights, 2016; Designed by Jörg Hartmann; virgin wool, lycra, polyamide, polyester; Gift of H. Stoll AG & Co. KG; Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum, 2017-49-3; Photo: Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum


Shopping Bag, Parco; USA; paper; Gift of Suzanne Sekey; Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum, 1992-77-6; Photo: Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum


developed and marketed the “Good Sense Corset Waists” in the early 1890s. Instead of rigid construction based on bone whale, these undergarments boasted flexibility for cycling and playing tennis. An 1897 advertisement for Ferris’ Good Sense Corset Waist reads, “Formed on hygienic principles, yielding to every motion of the body, permitting full expansion of the lungs, at the same time giving the body healthful and graceful support.”11 These health corsets were progressive for women who looked to increase their athleticism but still adhered to traditional beauty and dress standards of society.

The modern brassiere was patented in

1914, and as women transitioned from restrictive corsets to supportive bras, a small number of designers adapted the form for exercise. They were often marketed for use during low impact activities such as "acrobatic dancing” or cycling."12 For the next half a century, no brand was able to develop an undergarment supportive enough for some women to participate in intense cardiovascular sports.

As undergrads in the late 1970s, Lisa

Lindahl and her sister, Victoria, became frustrated with the lack of supportive undergarments for athletic activity. The two jogged around the University of Vermont track almost daily, often logging over 30 miles per week. Uncomfortable from slipping bra straps, chafing around the band, and poking hardware, Victoria joked that she needed “a jockstrap for women.” Set on the idea, Lisa Lindahl and her costume-designer roommate, Polly Palmer-Smith, started creating prototypes of their ideal athletic bra. Amused by their complaints and efforts, Lindahl’s then-husband slipped into the bedroom, stretched a jockstrap across his chest,

and reappeared in the living room to peals of laughter. Lindahl said, “I got up and took it off of him and tried it on! I had to get in the act! I pulled it over my chest that actually had breasts, and went running the next day in this jockstrap contraption and knew that this was the product that was going to work.”13 Palmer-Smith went to New York City to source strong elastic and soft material for the cups, and soon the pair had an efficient working prototype. With another friend, Hinda Miller, Polly PalmerSmith and Lisa Lindahl became living beta testers for the bras.

The trio knew that there was a market for

their new product, and they soon began producing “Jogbras,” as they called them, in three sizes - small, medium and large. Despite the need for a supportive and comfortable athletic bra, it was difficult to find retailers for the Jogbra. With a small initial production run of just 500 bras, Lindahl started marketing this revolutionary garment through mail order. The first ads for the Jogbra ran in the sports-oriented magazines Runner’s World and womenSports, with some success.

In March 1979, the first full-page ad

featuring an image of designers Lisa Lindahl and Hinda Miller (née Schreiber, as the ad copy states) was published. With a bold headline stating, “No manmade sporting bra can touch it,” the advertisement asserts its female focus immediately. With three columns of personable and informational text, Lindahl sells the Jogbra as if she were talking to her female friends over coffee. She describes the silly origin story and eventual success in creating “a totally original piece of athletic equipment.”14 The copy also advises that women should “Treat your breasts as well as you treat your feet.” By positioning 100

the Jogbra as an essential part of sporting equipment for women, and not a piece of lingerie, the female designers emphasized the revolutionary utility and progressive technology of the item. They acknowledged the growing need for serious specific, supportive undergarments for women as they engaged in strenuous athletic activity on a regular basis.

These female entrepreneurs believed

sporting goods stores were the ideal retailers for the Jogbra, as it was a new type of athletic equipment. But the typically male “buyers for sporting goods stores were often ‘squeamish’ about displaying bras,” especially those that could be considered ugly, unlike traditional lingerie.15 Many buyers could not understand why a maleoriented sports store would suddenly start selling women’s undergarments. These men did not understand the physical need for a breast-supporting product, the innovation behind the Jogbra, or the potential sales market for the product.

Lindahl believed that presenting the Jogbra in a lingerie store or department store would “minimize its importance and minimize its functionality.” Steadfastly sticking to her instincts, she successfully convinced a few independent sporting goods retailers to sell the Jogbra.16 The large profits and impressive demand that followed quickly convinced other stores to embrace the new product necessary for female athletes to perform at their best. The male buyers who once saw the Jogbra as “ancillary equipment that took up floor space” now understood Lindahl’s position realizing the growing class of female athletes and the mechanics of their bodies.17


While Lindahl was an experienced

runner, her business education was limited. However, her instinct to sell the Jogbra at sporting goods stores proved intuitive. She recalled, “We were profitable our first full year in business and didn’t even know that that was unusual.”18 As immense retail success followed, Jogbra Incorporated continued to refine the original design and produce new models. Lindahl and Miller began manufacturing the Jogbra in a range of colors, releasing them in seasons like the traditional fashion cycle.19 Selling the Jogbra in a rainbow of options opened up the possibility that they may be seen while women were running. More choice offered female runners the opportunity to use their Jogbra for its intended practical purpose and make a fashion statement. Lindahl, in addition to creating a piece of equipment that was technologically advanced wanted to design a top that could stand alone. Reminiscing about her early jogging experiences in Burlington, Vermont, she said, “Ideally I was hoping that it could be modest enough so I could take off my tee shirt on really hot summer days because I had a running partner who would do that and I was so jealous because I couldn’t do that.”20 Though it was not immediate, the comfort of exposing the sports bra became standard as more women pursued athletic activity.

Jogbra sales continued to climb through the 1980s. When the company was purchased by Playtex in 1990, it was bringing in $75 million in annual sales. Lindahl and Miller had demonstrated the need for such a product and proved those more reserved male sporting goods buyers wrong. By this time, all major athletic goods companies

Right: Drawing, Running female figure, ca. 1759–70; Made by Jean-Robert Ango; France; red chalk on paper; Gift of Noah Butkin; Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum, 1977-1102-15; Photo: Matt Flynn © Smithsonian Institution


Drawing; Designed by Edward McKnight Kauffer; pen and black ink on off-white paper; Gift of Mrs. E. McKnight Kauffer; Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum, 1963-39-793; Photo: Matt Flynn © Smithsonian Institution


were producing sports bras. Champion purchased Jogbra label from Playtex in 1991, and major brands such as Nike and Adidas added “sports bras” to their women’s collections. The Jogbra had become its own category.

By the 1990s, the sports bra was a staple

of an active woman's wardrobe, providing support and comfort for anyone who might need it. According to sports historian Jamie Schultz, during the 1990s, sports bras “became increasingly acceptable to don as a stand-alone piece of outerwear...brabearing activity thus became a sign of agency - a disavowal of traditional prudery that consigned the brassiere to underwear and a public declaration of one’s corporeal pride and identity as a ‘workout woman.’21

In 1999, the United States women’s soccer

team certainly needed all the support they could get as they faced China in the World Cup championship game. After a long match with no score, the teams began a tense shoot-out tie break. Brandi Chastain, a young American, scored a goal that brought victory to her team. In a burst of passion, Chastain whipped her jersey over her head, revealing a black Nike sports bra. Here was a descendant of Lindahl’s creation on view in front of some 40 million television screens tuned into the championship soccer game!

This moment immediately became iconic and spawned unrelenting debate about women in sports and their evidently ‘unladylike’ behavior. There was a clear double standard. While male athletes often celebrated by throwing off their shirts, many publications dismissed Chastain’s move as a “striptease,” “peeldown,” or “provocative gesture,” loading the moment with preconceived sexual intention and innuendo. A New York Times piece

questioned whether the spontaneous moment was devised by Nike’s marketing team. Kathryn Reith, the brand’s spokeswoman, was quoted saying “that Nike would never order its endorsers to wear its sports bra because it’s an important, personal piece of equipment.”22 In this rebuttal Reith confirmed Lindahl’s initial vision of the Jogbra as a tool necessary for optimal athletic performance. Chastain’s sports bra was not equivalent to lingerie but entirely appropriate. The powerful image of Brandi Chastain in her sports bra was on the cover of Sports Illustrated’s July 13,1999 issue; editor Sandy Bailey defended Chastain’s action saying, “It’s perfectly acceptable outerwear…This isn’t like men wearing jockstraps outside or women wearing thongs in public. A sports bra is a bra in name only. Women wear it outside to jog and to work out in gyms.”23 Ultimately, Chastain’s sports bra “came to symbolize the triumphs of the women’s soccer team, and by extension, the new legitimacy of women athletes everywhere.”24

The image of Chastain in her sports bra

celebrating a joyful triumphant moment made an indelible mark in many areas of culture and on young, future female athletes as well as established male sports fans. Brandi Chastain took all the mixed commentary in stride and in 2005 published a book titled It’s Not About the Bra: Play Hard, Play Fair, and Put the Fun Back Into Competitive Sports.

Only a quarter-century before the World

Cup win had legislation been passed ensuring that American girls and boys had equal opportunities in federally financed athletic programs. Before 1977 just one in 27 girls participated in high school sports, compared to two in five in 2011.25 Once girls had the right to play, they took full advantage. And now that girls and women 104

had more avenues for athletic activity, they needed well-designed gear to succeed. Boy’s and men's equipment would not suffice. The quick rise in women’s sports would not have been possible without the ingenuity of Lisa Lindahl and her friends in Burlington, Vermont. Their invention and refinement of the Jogbra made exercise more comfortable and enjoyable in addition to improving athletic performance. It also opened the world of sports to many women who once avoided exercise because of the discomfort of bouncing breasts. The Jogbra helped launch a revolution in women’s sports and undergarments—in addition to a retail boon.

Exactly forty years after Lisa Lindahl, Polly Palmer-Smith, and Hinda Miller created their Jogbra prototype, the sports bra market is a $300 million-dollar business.26 Dozens of female-focused athletic wear companies such as Lululemon and Athleta dot shopping malls and cities, providing active women with a wide range of wellfitting gear, including sports bras. With a large selection of styles, from simple Jogbra descendants to bras with advanced supportive technology, the sports bra now exists in a model for every type of body. Lisa Lindahl’s insistence that the Jogbra be marketed as equipment rather than lingerie cemented its place in women’s closets or drawers around the world. From marathoner Bobbi Gibb to Brandi Chastain, Lindahl’s Jogbra has literally supported women, proving that they deserve to be taken just as seriously as men in the world of competitive sports.

Notes 1. Monica Prelle, “When Bobbi Gibb Crashed the Boston Marathon and Blazed a Trail for Women,” Vice Sports, April 14, 2016, https:// sports.vice.com/en_us/article/9apy8z/whenbobbi-gibb-crashed-the-boston-marathon-andblazed-a-trail-for-women. 2. Gwilym S. Brown, “A Game Girl in a Man’s Game” Sports Illustrated, May 2, 1966, https:// www.si.com/vault/1966/05/02/609229/ a-game-girl-in-a-mans-game. 3. Gwilym S. Brown, “A Game Girl in a Man’s Game” Sports Illustrated, May 2, 1966, https:// www.si.com/vault/1966/05/02/609229/ a-game-girl-in-a-mans-game. 4. The United States Department of Justice Civil Rights Division, “OVERVIEW OF TITLE IX OF THE EDUCATION AMENDMENTS OF 1972, 20 U.S.C. A§ 1681 ET. SEQ ,” The United States Department of Justice, https:// www.justice.gov/crt/overview-title-ix-educationamendments-1972-20-usc-1681-et-seq. 5. Curry Kirkpatrick, “The Ball in Two Different Courts,” Sports Illustrated, December 25, 1972, https://www.si.com/vault/issue/43128/36/2. 6. Susan Ware, Game, Set Match: Billie Jean King and the Revolution in Women’s Sports (Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press, 2011), 130. 7. Monica Prelle, “When Bobbi Gibb Crashed the Boston Marathon and Blazed a Trail for Women,” Vice Sports, April 14, 2016, https:// sports.vice.com/en_us/article/9apy8z/whenbobbi-gibb-crashed-the-boston-marathon-andblazed-a-trail-for-women. 8. Colette Dowling, The Frailty Myth: Redefining the Physical Potential of Women and Girls, (New York: Random House, 2001). 9. Rose Eveleth, “Why Are Sports Bras so Terrible?” Racked, October 29, 2015, https:// www.racked.com/2015/10/29/9631102/sportsbra-research. 10. Bruce R. Mason, Kelly-Ann Page, and Keiran Fallon, “An Analysis of Movement and Discomfort of the Female Breast During Exercise and the Effects of Breast Support in Three Cases,” Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport 2, no. 2, June 1999, http://www.jsams.org/ article/S1440-2440(99)80193-5/abstract. 11. The National Museum of American History, “Let’s Be Rational,” Smithsonian Institutions, 2015. http://americanhistory.si.edu/objectproject/bicycles/sport-corset


12. Jamie Schultz, Qualifying Times: Points of Change in U.S. Women’s Sports (Champaign, IL: University of Illinois Press, 2014), 152. 13. Florence Williams, “The Athletic Brasserie,” 99% Invisible, Podcast Audio, October 3, 2017, https://99percentinvisible.org/episode/theathletic-brassiere/.

26. Rose Eveleth, “Why Are Sports Bras so Terrible?” Racked, October 29, 2015, https:// www.racked.com/2015/10/29/9631102/sportsbra-research.

14. Jogbra, Inc. Records, 1977-1980, “No ManMade Bra Can Touch It,” Archives Center, National Museum of American History. 15. Cathy Keen, “The First Jogbra was Made by Sewing Together Two Men’s Athletic Supporters,” Smithsonian Magazine, April 15, 2013, https://www.smithsonianmag. com/smithsonian-institution/first-jogbramade-sewing-together-two-mens-athleticsupporters-180954968/. 16. Florence Williams, “The Athletic Brasserie,” 99% Invisible, Podcast Audio, October 3, 2017, https://99percentinvisible.org/episode/theathletic-brassiere/. 17. Paul R. Josephson, Fish Sticks, Sports Bras, and Aluminum Cans: The Politics of Everyday Technologies (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2005), 42. 18. Jacob Roberts, “Women’s Work,” Distillations, Spring 2017. https://www.sciencehistory.org/ distillations/magazine/womens-work 19. Paul R. Josephson, Fish Sticks, Sports Bras, and Aluminum Cans: The Politics of Everyday Technologies (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2005), 41. 20. Florence Williams, “The Athletic Brasserie,” 99% Invisible, Podcast Audio, October 3, 2017, https://99percentinvisible.org/episode/theathletic-brassiere/. 21. Jamie Schultz, Qualifying Times: Points of Change in U.S. Women’s Sports (Champaign, IL: University of Illinois Press, 2014), 158. 22. Richard Sandomir, “Was Sports Bra Celebration Spontaneous?” The New York Times, July 18, 1999, Sports section. 23. Richard Sandomir, “Was Sports Bra Celebration Spontaneous?” The New York Times, July 18, 1999, Sports section. 24. Susan Ware, Game, Set Match: Billie Jean King and the Revolution in Women’s Sports (Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press, 2011), 118. 25. Quincey Tickner, “The Sports Bra: A Short History of an Undergarment Revolution,” Quartzy, December 9, 2017, https://quartzy. qz.com/1151781/the-sports-bra-a-short-historyof-an-undergarment-revolution. 106

107 Cover, The Federalist, 1961; USA; lithograph on paper; Gift of Tamar Cohen and Dave Slatoff; Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum, Book 1993-31-11; Photo: Matt Flynn Š Smithsonian Institution

Polishing Up on History: How the Federalist Paper nail wraps help the Girl Nerd claim her stake in politics past and present Forrest Pelsue

Introduction: Nailing down beauty, identity, and history

In the catfight against centuries of sexism,

racism, and general ignorance, a girl needs good nails: ideally, ones printed with words written by the Founding Fathers in defense of the U.S. Constitution. The Federalist Paper nail wraps from Espionage Cosmetics (Fig. 1) are just the thing, providing a protective manicure that will hold its vintage-chic style as you claw your way through years of neglect and submission imposed by the reign of white, conservative, unfashionable men.

A strange mash-up of history, fashion,

and nerd culture, these nail wraps reflect our “woke� millennial-ruled era, which is defined as much by identity politics as it is by selfies and online shopping.1 The wraps are ambiguous objects, wavering between vigorous social justice and passive neoliberalism. They challenge the prevailing masculinity of nerd culture by applying it to a feminine practice, but the very concept of the manicure adheres to conventional expectations of fashion and beauty. A thematic connection to the hit musical Hamilton aligns the wraps with a larger movement to reclaim history from the canonical dominance of white men,

but also isolates them within the cultural bubble that has recently caused severe bipartisanship in America, exemplified by liberal incredulity at the results of the 2016 presidential election, and highlighting the extent to which the left had disengaged from the right.

At first glance the nails wraps may seem

to be a simple, if somewhat unique, accessory. Upon closer inspection, however, these finger decorations reveal themselves to be subtly complex objects whose blending of aesthetic signifiers reflects the diversity of tastes emerging from overlapping spheres of femininity, erudition, and pop-culture savvy. The emergence of nerd culture (and of female nerds within this culture), has been aided by the common forum of the Internet, which gives access not only to fellow nerds, but also to products that physically signify nerd-ness and help to mark oneself a nerd to the non-online world (that is to say, physical reality). This paper will explore how the Federalist Paper nail wraps are implicit to the emergence of what I have termed the Girl Nerd as a distinct cultural type, as well as how even minute cultural signifiers have become politicized in this polemic social moment. 108

What exactly is a “nail wrap”?

A nail wrap is essentially a sticker for your fingernail. A special adhesive is used to bond the wraps to the nails, producing a smooth and durable manicure without the use of gel polish or fake nails. They are relatively simple to apply and significantly less expensive than a visit to the salon. A major advantage of a nail wrap over a fake nail or painted manicure is the fact that their designs are printed, allowing for effects that would be difficult to accomplish with polish or lacquer, such as a photographic amethyst pattern, a miniature periodic table of elements layered with hidden glow-in-the-dark designs, and, of course, pages from the 1788 edition of The Federalist.

The Federalist Paper nail wraps are

presented in a matte black cardboard envelope that features a fair amount of glittery and cartoon-like graphics, confirming that this is a gendered product; the packaging’s overall aesthetic can be described as “girly.” On the top of the package is the logo for Espionage Cosmetics, printed in silver on a white background and bordered by a collection of different images, also in silver: a pair of glasses, a pixelated heart, a flying saucer, a starry flare, a floppy disk, a gaming controller, a book, a jewel, a beaker, and an atom. This design reveals that the company’s target audience is young; interested in literature, science, or video gaming; and female. Below the glittery emblem another white and silver circle proclaims “Fandom Infused Manicures,” and is surrounded by an array of cute, small hearts. These graphics speak to a nerd culture that is linked to fashion-a style that embraces both beakers and sparkles. This duality is fundamental to 109

the Girl Nerd and will be addressed in detail later on.

Below the hearts, a teal strip contains

the title for this particular nail wrap design: “Federalist Papers.” A white box, also below, explains that the wraps are “Cruelty-Free, Latex-Free & 10-Free!” The promotion of the wraps as free of latex and cruelty suggests that their intended consumers may be concerned with environmental and animal-rights issues. “10-Free” means that the wraps do not contain the ten most toxic chemicals often found in nail polishes and products, emphasizing an awareness of environmental and individual health. The bottom box of text on the package’s front describes the nail wraps as simple and quick to apply. On the company website, this product retails for $11.00 plus shipping. According to Espionage Cosmetics, the Federalist Paper design is among their most popular, with consistent demand even when it is out of stock.2 Nail wraps take the place of a manicure for those who want nice nails but may not have the time or budget to spend regularly at the salon, and the ease of application implies that users are busy with things other than their fingernails (or at least wish to be perceived that way).

On the right half of the package, a

narrow, rectangular window allows for a view of the wraps themselves, a “sneakpeak.” Eight of the ten are visible, starting small and growing wider. The colors of each vary between off-white and tan, and the range in tones gives the appearance that they were “cut” from different pages of the Papers. Black text fills the wraps. The typeface is tiny and scrawling and would be difficult to decipher from a distance of more than about two feet.

Here and there the word “FEDERALIST” appears, the easiest to pick out thanks to capital letters. Three of the wraps appear to be a title page. The other wraps are printed in pairs, both taken from the same passage, indicated by matching background color, text alignment, and continuity of the phrases that appear on each. So, which of the 85 papers are included on the wraps? Perhaps Hamilton’s essay on the consequences of hostility between states? Or his argument for the necessity of an energetically able government?

collected in two volumes published in 1788. The passages used on the wraps are taken from the title page and foreword to the first volume, found on the first three pages of the book, even before the table of contents. The edition copied onto the wraps, which can be found digitized on the Library of Congress website, originally belonged to Alexander Hamilton’s wife Elizabeth Schuyler, who gifted it to her sister Angelica Church.3 Although the wraps lack actual Federalist Paper prose, their heritage is highly appropriate for wear and circulation by women today.

In fact, the wraps do not contain any

The foremost question this product poses

material from the original Federalist Papers. After being individually published as newspaper serials, the papers were

is: why the Federalist Papers? And, why on nail wraps? One clue is on the package in a subheading below the title that describes Fig. 1. Courtesy of Espionage Cosmetics


the product in more detail: J. Jay – 5 J. Madison – 29 A. Hamilton – The Other 51

The wording used to describe the number of papers written by each author includes a phrase written by Lin-Manuel Miranda for the musical Hamilton: “John Jay got sick after writing five/ James Madison wrote twenty-nine/ Hamilton wrote the other fifty-one!”4 Citation of the popular musical marks this product as Hamilton paraphernalia, created not just for history buffs but for theater buffs as well—with the latter likely the main audience for this product.

Have those who wear this accessory read

the Federalist Papers or are they more engrossed in singing along to the original cast soundtrack? What is not pictured on the wraps themselves may be more important to the user than the original documents behind the design. Hamilton’s name does not appear anywhere except for on the packaging, so when they are being worn, the wraps’ connection to the musical is somewhat obscure. This, along with the miniscule size of the decorative text and the subtle, skin-like tone of the background suggests that the use of this product is more about the user than others who might see it. Unlike a T-shirt which is easily read by others and unobserved by the wearer, these nail wraps are difficult to decipher without reading the packaging or examining them up close which can be done easily by the wearer but not by those around her.

Investigating the formal aspects of the nail 111

wraps and their packaging leads to a consideration of the women who might wear them. As mentioned above, these women could be most simply described as nerds or fans. However, bearing in mind that the medium is part of the message, a more complex examination is required one that explores the manicure as identifier and its place within the realms of female nerdom and fandom.

The Girl Nerd

Pride capitals are used here to indicate that this is more than just a modified noun but what could be called its own Platonic “type.” This section will explore why the rise of the Girl Nerd as a type is significant and how fashion and beauty are central to her self-differentiation from the stereotypical (read: male) nerd.

Nerds come in many varieties, making the term difficult to define, which the author Benjamin Nugent acknowledges at the beginning of his book American Nerd: The story of my people. Ultimately, Nugent outlines nerds as belonging in one of two main categories: “One type, disproportionately male, is intellectual in ways that strike people as machinelike, and socially awkward in ways that strike people as machinelike.” This is exemplified in contemporary popular culture by the television show The Big Bang Theory, where the main characters tend to bumble around other humans while also being intensely logical. Nugent goes on to explain, “The second type of nerd probably consists equally of males and females. This is a nerd who is excluded by sheer force of social exclusion.” This category includes social misfits and those who have “the sense of staring from the wrong end of the lunch table at a radiant nation.”5

Nugent’s academic explanation lays

a necessary groundwork for serious consideration of the meaning of “nerd,” but his broad strokes also tend to paint the nerd as a predominantly male type, brushing over possible gender distinctions within the category. When the author gives examples, he tends to speak of “Guy 1/ Guy 2” or “brotherhood” or a theoretical “son.”6 His case studies are about Zack, Jack, and Darren. When women are mentioned, it is primarily in conjunction with men, as in the chapter “Nerd Love” or the discussion of yaoi literature, a genre of fan fiction “about male homosexual love written by and for straight women.”7

A search of the term “nerds” on Google

Images provides curious results. First, the top results include a number of nerdy women, which was somewhat unexpected.8 That being said, these girl nerds seem more like female versions of the male stereotype rather than their own unique type. Although one female nerd sports flashy blue glasses, the caption given to the image on Shutterstock (“Happy nerdy couple showing thumbs up”) confirms her attachment to the man, making her part of a unit. It is also interesting to note that the other woman who appears is a “normal” or non-nerd, attractive blonde. The filters offered at the top of the page connect various topics within the umbrella term: “Star Wars” and “geek” seem obvious, but farther down the list are the modifiers “black” and “white.” These adjectives point towards the politics of race in nerdom, a topic that will be addressed later. Examining how women are represented on Google images can expand further upon Nugent’s analysis, specifically

in terms of the less-discussed female nerd. There seem to be two general characteristics that apply to the female nerd: 1) Female nerds are unattractive, and in order to be considered attractive, they must transform themselves into conventionally beautiful women—this is a long-standing trope in cultural production, from The Breakfast Club to Katy Perry’s Last Friday Night; and 2) female nerds are a subcategory of male nerds, the second nerd sex, if you will, and they can only be understood in terms of the standard male nerd and not in their own right. Nugent describes how the nerd aesthetic as embraced by hipster style, or what he calls the “fake nerd” masks gender difference: For a woman, dressing up as fake nerd is refusal of plumage. In an androgynous paradise where adults of both sexes look like enlarged spelling-bee champions, it’s easy to forget for a moment, or even an entire night of drinking beer, that privilege is unevenly distributed between genders. At least, it’s easy if you’re male.9

Is it possible for women to be nerdy in a way that does not merely mirror male nerdiness, nor relegate them to a conventional object of desire? This is not a matter of simply turning the tables, with women filling the role of the traditional nerd, only with longer hair. We need a new table, and the Girl Nerd is the answer.

Women are starting to embrace their femininity and nerdiness in a unique combination distinct from what has coalesced within general nerd culture to date. This trend is at its most mainstream with figures like Hermione Granger and Tina Fey, who could be considered both feminist icons and nerds. It is also seen when women make their own cultural mash-ups, such as a music video about 112

hipster Disney princesses. This interpretation turns Nugent’s critique of fake nerd androgyny on its head by making a definitively female version of the hipster. And of course, for the Disney lovers of the world, there’s a princess manicure from NailNerd.com, which leads back to the main topic of this paper: nerd nails.

In her book Nails, Suzanne Shapiro explores the history of the manicure and assesses its place in contemporary society. She quotes Vanessa Friedman of Vogue, who explains, “Now that women no longer have to have decorative nails to be thought feminine—and conversely, now that they can have them and still be thought serious—they are, paradoxically, free to flaunt them.”10 The lack of enforced social conventions regarding nail care has made a space for more adventurous, more personalized styles that allow women to express themselves without worrying what the world will think or in a way that gives them agency over their own image.

Enter the founders of Espionage Cosmetics, the company responsible for the Federalist Paper nail wraps as well as myriad other nerd beauty products. These women are a far cry from what is usually expected when considering the term “nerd” as seen on Google Images. They are not nerdy girls; they are Girl Nerds. The Espionage mission statement encapsulates the dualism of this type: “Ever since 2011, the mission was clear: knockout the idea that being a nerd while loving makeup and nail art at the same time was a paradox.” The phrase “Glitter Jedi,” used as a self-description by CEO Jaimie Cordero, epitomizes how women wield nerdiness in a manner that is unabashedly feminine. While this could be doubly diminutive, excluding oneself from both mainstream society and mainstream nerd cultures, the internet has allowed 113

like-minded communities of women to come together, and products like those sold by Espionage Cosmetics afford them an opportunity to realize their own unique identities and display them to the world.

This leads back to the nail wraps themselves. This product, and the company that produces it, is central to the concept of the Girl Nerd. She does not appropriate male nerd culture (as seen with those sporting glasses and suspenders). She appropriates historical documents, makes references to contemporary musicals, and does it with style. Her attention to appearance is not a matter of subscribing to conventional notions of beauty but of manipulating these notions to better represent her true self. She’s got a lot of brains and polish.12

This is especially true of the Federalist nail wraps with tiny print and subtle colors that may easily go unnoticed. Of equal importance is the “#nerdmanicure” tag used to circulate images of Federalist nails. The fashion critic Booth Moore described the “cultural compulsion to shareand-compare” that Shapiro sees being reinforced by modern technology and social media.13 “Armed around the clock with capable camera phones and apps like Instagram,” Shapiro explains, “we can rest assured that our fabulous nails will be seen by friends and frenemies alike.” She goes on to say, “Most agree that the intended audiences for women’s nailcapades is usually other women.”14 Nerdy nails—such as the ones produced by the Federalist wraps—are for those in the know; they fortify bonds among existing communities. However, even small-scale gestures like unobtrusive Federalist nails may be related to a broader movement with large-scale consequences. Right: Sidewall, Consulate, 1953; Manufactured by Harben Papers, Inc.; USA; screen printed; Gift of B.H. Hellman; Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum, 1954-21-3; Photo: Matt Flynn © Smithsonian Institution


Political to the cuticle

and politicians, but to visible to every Internet user. The use of social media tags Exemplified by association with the musical like #nerdmanicure or #BoycottHamilton can create what have been called bubbles Hamilton, themes of race, revisionism, and identity politics are implicit in the seemingly or echo chambers, where people end up innocuous Federalist Paper nail wraps. The preaching to their respective choirs.17 These show—a Broadway hit known as much for tags also allow those with contradictory its unconventional hip-hop-inspired score viewpoints to target rival ideas, trolling as for its long-term sold-out status—has the opposition by using the same tags to been celebrated and scorned in ways that infiltrate divergent social media spheres. reveal how social fragmentation extends This cycle plays out endlessly on platforms from cultural taste to political ideology. like Twitter, where every string of comments seems to contain both affirmative In an article for Refinery29, Elizabeth Thorp and negative reactions. On social media, wonders, “Are avid Hamilton fans living the smallest detail can be blown out of in a bubble? Is it the same bubble that has proportion, and cultural tastes—such as an divided our country into ‘I’m With Her’ and affinity for a certain musical—may signify ‘Make America Great Again’ factions?”15 allegiance to one half of a highly polarized While some have been willing to pay political spectrum. thousands of dollars for a ticket, movements like #BoycottHamilton push back against This casts the Girl Nerd community in the dialogue of overwhelming success a new light. When these women flaunt that envelopes the show.16 Apparently, the their Federalist nails via Instagram or adamant inclusivity of Hamilton does in Facebook, they are also showing a specific fact exclude some people. As the saying relationship to American politics past and goes, you can’t please all of the people present. The association with Hamilton all of the time: it appears that when Linsituates the wearer of such nails as a leftist Manuel Miranda sought to champion or liberal, at least when shared on social overlooked minorities and disparaged media—and especially when paired with musical genres, those who were previously other Hamilton paraphernalia, but the catered to by canonic political history significance of the design is more complex (meaning generally white, nationalistic than simply left versus right. The Federalist men) suddenly found themselves faced Paper nail wraps empower the wearer with a displeasing occurrence of reverse by enabling her/him to claim a stake in appropriation. Beyond the quality of American history, to realize this history is the songwriting or competence of the a construction that can be reassessed and choreography, Hamilton is now being judged rebuilt to address contemporary issues. on its politics, especially in the wake of the The wraps literally cut apart an official ‘Make America Great Again’ movement document and relegate it to a decorative and the 2016 presidential election. accessory, but this degradation is not intended to insult the original. Rather, it Today, in a society increasingly segregated endeavors to make the document and its along sociopolitical lines, social media origins accessible not just to scholars and allows for both insulation and the document politicians, but to women who have been and its origins accessible not just to scholars too long left out of the equation. 115

How much power can a manicure have?

While fashion may seem to operate on a level far removed from political discourse, it has been an integral part of American politics since before the Revolution. Michael Zakim points out that for the rebellious colonists, “A distinctly American dress would attach citizens to each other by forging a common identity, especially important since so much of American culture was inherited from a corrupted England.”18 The extensive considerations of fashion trends by early Americans, including George Washington’s desire to wear an American-made inauguration suit, show the significance of what is often considered a frivolous interest. Attire, from Yankee Doodle’s improvised macaroni feather to Michelle Obama’s J. Crew cardigans, given its higher visibility, defines us as much as, or even more than, the party affiliation on our voting registration.

Conclusion: Hand in hand, nail by nail

In the same way that the colonists

rejected European apparel in their bid for independence, the Girl Nerd rejects stereotypical nerd fashion in order to build a distinct identity. Styles like “fandom infused manicures” allow the paradox of a fashionable nerd to take shape and build momentum. From cosplay to musical theater to nail enthusiasts to podcasts such as Dames not Damsels, there is a great deal more to be written on the topic of the Girl Nerd, which goes far beyond fingernails. Still a relatively niche community, the Girl Nerd has been long overshadowed by perspectives that take the dominant, masculine aspects of nerd culture as representative of what is in fact a multifaceted category replete with gender difference. Thanks to the connectivity

of social media and the attention of companies like Espionage Cosmetics, this demographic is beginning to solidify into a cultural and political force. Perhaps the nerd future is female.

However, this phenomenon is not without its problems. While some companies are making way for the Girl Nerd, they are also enticing her to buy into a capitalist system that uses cultural trends to rope in new consumers. The Federalist Paper nail wraps may allow for historical revisionism, but they are also a commodity, regulated and circulated by the market, which shows no sympathy for centuries of racial and sexual discrimination and only stands to benefit financially from suddenly appearing to cater to underprivileged groups. Both of these things can be true at once: the wraps are empowering but also a product of power. While the woman who wears them may be a fiercely liberal advocate for social change, the embodied wraps could be perceived as neoliberal objects. This is not meant to undercut the positive possibilities of nerd manicures, only to point out that such practices remain situated within a broader capitalist paradigm.

The Federalist Nail wraps empower women—myself included, wearing the wraps while I write this—to say I am feminine and I love history. I have great nails, and they tell my story. I’m so woke that even my nails make a political statement. They’re not about you, or about expectations of my appearance, they are for me and my fellow Girl Nerds, and we alone.


Notes 1. Being woke “implies that you're down with the historical fight against prejudice.” Amanda Hess, “Earning the ‘Woke’ Badge,” New York Times, April 19, 2016. See also Raven Cras, “What does it mean to be ‘woke’?” Blavity, 2016. 2. A representative of the company explained, “Customers can sign up for the back in stock alerts when something is out of stock and Federalist Papers is our 5th most requested product on those alerts.” Espionage Cosmetics Team, email correspondence with the author, December 5, 2017. 3.Alexander Hamilton, James Madison and John Jay. The Federalist: a Collection of Essays, Written in Favour of the New Constitution, as Agreed upon by the Federal Convention, September 17, 1787 (New York: J. and A. McLean, 1788), retrieved October 21, 2017 via Library of Congress. 4. Lin-Manuel Miranda, Hamilton, Broadway musical, premiered January 20, 2015. 5. Benjamin Nugent, American Nerd: The Story of My People, (New York: Scribner, 2008), 6-9. 6. Nugent, American Nerd, 45-47. 7. Nugent, American Nerd, 139-140. 8. It should be noted there is a possibility my search results are different from the search results that, say, Benjamin Nugent would receive, as the algorithms used by Google may be tailored to the individual user. This could explain the unexpected appearance of numerous female nerds. Also, my results were strikingly different when the term “nerd” (singular) was used for the search. Thus, take this section with the caveat that while Google searches may provide some insight into collective consciousness, they may reflect a slightly skewed perspective. 9. Nugent, American Nerd, 125. 10. Suzanne E. Shapiro, Nails: The Story of the Modern Manicure, (Munich: Prestel, 2014), 121. 11. “About Us,” Espionage Cosmetics website, accessed December 19, 2017, https://www. espionagecosmetics.com/pages/about-us. 12. Unlike Alexander Hamilton, who has “got a lot of brains but no polish.” Lin-Manuel Miranda, “My Shot,” Hamilton. 13. Booth Moore, quoted in Shapiro, Nails, 129. 14. Shapiro, Nails, 129. 117

1 5 . E l i z a b e t h T h o r p, “ W hy S o M a ny Hamilton Fans Might Be In For A Shock,” Refinery 29, November 29, 2016. 16. N. Gregory Mankiw, “I Paid $2,500 for a ‘Hamilton’ Ticket. And I’m Happy About It,” New York Times, October 21, 2016. 17. Seth Flaxman, Sharad Goel, and Justin M. Rao, “Filter Bubbles, Echo Chambers, and Online News Consumption,” Public Opinion Quarterly 80, no. 1 (2016): 298-320. 18. Michael Zakim, “Sartorial Ideologies: From Homespun to Ready-Made,” T he American Historical Review 106, no. 5. (December 2001): 1566-1567.

Women with Cameras in Film: The Stepford Wives and 20th Century Women Ben Green Since the 1972 publication of Ira Levin’s

novel The Stepford Wives and the subsequent release of the 1975 science-fiction horror film of the same name directed by Bryan Forbes, “Stepford” has entered the English lexicon as a metonym for suburbia— specifically one inhabited by acquiescent and seemingly perfect housewives. Despite the colloquial familiarity of the phrase “Stepford Wives,” however, the film’s popularity dwindled and has received little scholarly attention, perhaps in part due to its mediocre box office performance. This essay aims to rectify this neglect and articulate the ways in which the film can be read as a feminist text that comments on gender and labor through material culture. In addition, the essay considers some ways in which the contemporary film 20th Century Women (dir. Mike Mills, 2016) ideologically presents the political and social climate of the 1970s also in relation to feminism. Whereas The Stepford Wives responded immediately to the issues at hand in the 1970s, 20th Century Women, set in 1979, looks back at the period. Both films, however, feature empowered women traversing the new, liberating terrain of womanhood that feminism was paving. It is especially interesting to compare how these ideas are represented in the two films using objects.

Both films feature strong, feminist

characters that happen to be photographers. This connection should not be considered a superficial point or

a mere aspect of character development. The use of cameras in these two films not only reflects a growing interest in feminist film theory and art history of the 1970s but also exemplifies material culture being used to deliberately convey meaning about the act of looking. The two films take different approaches to this topic, yet they both reveal the ways in which the camera bestows power, autonomy, and subjectivity upon the photographer. The same argument can be made about both films: that the camera and act of photography can construct a liberated woman’s identity. The Stepford Wives follows Joanna Eberhart, a proclaimed “hopeful, would-be, semiprofessional photographer,” and her lawyer husband Walter through their family’s move from New York City to Stepford, Connecticut. Upon arriving in the quiet community of Stepford, Joanna befriends a woman named Bobbie Markowe, another newcomer to the town. The two women quickly discover that something is not quite right in Stepford, particularly in the ways that the women of Stepford reflect archaic gender roles. Joanna and Bobbie are liberated women who attempt to proselytize their neighbors into becoming more politically progressive, but the “Stepford Wives” appear content with their domestic responsibilities. Eventually, we learn the true horror of Stepford: the Men’s Association has been killing the women and replacing them with robots who exist simply to cook, clean, and serve their



The Stepford Wives (1975) Directed by Bryan Forbes: Poster art Columbia Pictures/Photofest

husbands. The film ends with Joanna’s murder, an act that symbolizes her inability to escape Stepford’s patriarchal and uxoricidal society.

The film was initially met with dissenting

reviews by feminists such as Betty Friedan, who called the film a “a rip-off of the women’s movement,” but many scholars and critics have since noted that the film is actually a critical commentary on the oppressive and subservient roles that many women assume as well as the ways in which suburban life inculcates these roles.1 At the time of the novel and film’s release, second-wave feminism’s demand for the housewife’s liberation had reached a mainstream audience. The Stepford Wives was a fictional depiction of the very real situation that Friedan wrote about in her seminal text The Feminine Mystique (1963). Critics and scholars have noted that The Stepford Wives points out the constructedness of womanhood, but the ways this manifests itself have not been fully explored.2 The film can be read as an ideological response to second-wave feminism as well as a cultural backlash in which some men feared the idea of a truly autonomous woman.

Simone de Beauvoir famously wrote, “One is not born, but becomes, woman,” noting that femininity, womanhood, and gender are socially and culturally constructed.3 Judith Butler later expanded upon this idea, saying that, “gender ought not to be construed as a stable identity or locus of agency from which various acts follow; rather, gender is an identity tenuously constituted in time, instituted in an exterior space through a stylized repetition of acts.”4 This concept of performativity explains how this construction occurs. In film (and life), part of this “stylized repetition of acts” or the formation of identity, involves the use of props (or objects) and sets (or space).

In analyzing The Stepford Wives I focus on

Joanna’s camera and the performative role that it plays in creating her identity. Specifically, I argue that the camera as an object-prop highlights Joanna’s subjectivity and positions her as a liberated woman, standing in stark contrast to the “Stepford Wives” who exist as living advertisements or objects of the camera’s gaze. This difference is accentuated by contrasting the spaces within which we find these women. These binary positions—the “progressive” woman and the “traditional” or “Stepford woman”—are, therefore, articulated through the use of objects and spaces.

Joanna’s camera constitutes not only her

subjectivity but also leverages her economic and social mobility. Throughout the movie, Joanna is shown working in her darkroom or sorting through photographs rather than cleaning or cooking. The darkroom setting does not serve any diegetic function but rather acts as an index for her interests and larger goals. At one point Walter yells at Joanna, who is in her darkroom working, asking her to come help take care of the kids. She responds by saying that she cannot stop working. In this instance, Joanna asserts that her work as a photographer takes precedence over her motherly caretaking.

In a Woolfian sense, Joanna’s independence is predicated on having a physical room, a darkroom, in which to work. During the move to Stepford, Walter suggests that Joanna can build this space. After his indoctrination into the Men’s Association, housed in a dark gothic mansion, however, he cites the darkroom as the source of his home’s disorder—both physically and emotionally. The physical space of the darkroom also offers Joanna the chance for financial independence through her photography. But this is not her ultimate goal; subjectivity and agency are her goals, and her camera permits this.

Around the time of the novel and film’s 120

release, theorists wrote about the camera’s capacity to appropriate the photographed object. Susan Sontag noted, “[To photograph] means putting oneself into a certain relation to the world that feels like knowledge—and, therefore, like power.”5 With her Nikon camera in hand, Joanna takes on this active role. She denies John Berger’s axiomatic claim that “Men act and women appear. Men look at women. Women watch themselves being looked at,” and, instead, Joanna appropriates the socalled male gaze.6 By “owning” the act of looking, according to this theorizing, her camera becomes a substitute phallus. It allows her to disrupt patriarchal modes of viewing and gives her autonomy.

During a scene in which Bobbie’s children

are staying with the Eberharts, Joanna has a stroke of inspiration. She quickly grabs two cameras and begins photographing the children playing outside. The music crescendos and the camera zooms into Joanna’s face as she captures several photos. In this closeup shot, the camera’s lens replaces her eye. Her vision mirrors the camera’s vision. Joanna actively gazes at the world; she “shoots” film and “captures” her subject—all actions that convey power and appropriation. Interestingly, however, her subject matter remains within the confines of the home. In an opening scene, she more subversively reverses the male gaze. When Joanna and her children are waiting in the car for Walter to officially move to Stepford, Joanna notices a man carrying a mannequin across the street. The mannequin is naked other than a wig and bandage across its eyes. Intrigued, Joanna gets out of her car and takes a few photographs. When Walter gets to the car, his daughter says, “Daddy. I just saw a man 121

carrying a naked lady.” Walter responds, “Well, that’s why we’re moving to Stepford.” This can be read in two contradictory ways: first, that the family is escaping the perversity of the city, or second, more cynically, that in Stepford, Walter will be free to manipulate and control Joanna’s body as if it were a mannequin. This scene foreshadows Joanna’s future as it points to the role of women as objects or mannequins who cannot actively look.7 When Joanna uses her camera to photograph this bizarre urban scene, she turns the male gaze on its head. As a woman photographing the oppression of women (vis-à-vis the visual metaphor of a man carrying a mannequin), she underscores the ridiculousness of the entire situation. In a later scene we see her tearing apart and burning some of her developed photos. These are arguably the very photos that she took in the city. Perhaps she destroys them because they are not her best or because she is disgusted by their meaning. We cannot know for certain why she destroyed her photos, but we do know that it is not because she does not take herself seriously as a photographer since she later takes her photos of the children to an art dealer.

The gallerist appreciates her photos but

is more interested in Joanna’s persistent desire to have her photos exhibited or sold. Joanna tells the dealer, “I want somewhere, someday, someone to look at something and say ‘Hey, that reminds me of an Ingles.’ Ingles was my maiden name. I guess I want to be remembered.” For Joanna, her camera is the conduit through which she will be known or immortalized. Significantly, she uses her maiden name as an artist rather than her married name. In

20th Century Women (2016) Directed by Mike Mills: Poster art A24/Photofest


The Stepford Wives (1975) Directed by Bryan Forbes; Columbia Pictures/Photofest.

comparison to her Stepford neighbors, she wants to be admired for her work rather than her appearance.

Towards the end of the film when Joanna

meets with a psychiatrist and discusses her theory of what happens to the women in Stepford, she emphatically expresses her fear that “there’ll be someone with my name and she’ll cook and clean like crazy, but she won’t take pictures and she won’t be me.” This sets up a dichotomy between domestic work and artistic production or between Joanna and the “Stepford Wives.” She believes that her art practice makes her human and not robot. The camera acts as an apparatus for agency. By extension, the film, as a form of photography itself, argues for women’s rights.

While we do not know exactly the material from which the “Stepford Wives” are made, it could be argued that they are animatronics.8 The fact that the leader of the Stepford Men’s Association formerly worked at Disney World supports this 123

connection. The women appear to be regular humans, but they are not made from organic material. The only part of their construction we know to be real are the eyes which are taken from the woman after death and put into the robot’s eye sockets. Even though the “Stepford Wives” are made with real eyeballs, they still cannot truly see. To see requires other physiological functions which these robots do not possess. They are merely machines.9 Eyes are often considered the “windows to the soul,” but in the case of the “Stepford Wives,” it is clear that the women are soulless. Perhaps the eyes remain a metaphor without substance or connote a soul no longer accessible. The “Stepford Wives” limited capacity to see is further exaggerated by Joanna’s facility to see with the camera.

If the camera makes Joanna a subject

(an active I that initiates action), then its product, the photograph, represents the women of Stepford as object. As Sontag puts it, “[Photography] turns people into objects

that can be symbolically possessed.”10 The “Stepford Wives” are literal animatronic objects not altogether different from other kitchen appliances, but they are also fetishistic objects of male desire. They are living advertisements; they are the photographed rather than the photographer. The “Stepford Wives” gender identity is constructed, as Butler contends in her discussion, by a “stylized repetition of acts” that we witness in the movie via the objects they purchase and the look of their interiors.

The Stepford woman’s identity—or,

perhaps, the identity men have fabricated for her as robot—is formed by acts of cooking, cleaning, and consumption. We hear about this during a consciousnessraising session organized by Joanna and Bobbie. While Joanna hopes to discuss the women’s perspectives on money, relationships, and sex, the conversation instead turns into a discussion of cleaning products. One woman complains that there is not enough time in the day for her to get everything done. Another woman suggests Easy On spray starch, saying, “It must save me half an hour a day at least. You’ll never run short on time again. I guarantee it.” Background music begins to play and the woman sounds as if she is announcing the product on television. She says, “If time is your enemy, make friends with Easy On. That’s all I can tell you. It’s so good that if ever I became famous and the Easy On people asked me would I do a commercial, not only would I do it, I’d do it for free. That’s how good it is.” This type of language mirrors that of women’s interest magazines during the 1950s and 60s. The feminist aims of this meeting were completely derailed, and we see how their version of femininity is a performance—in this context, a performance for television.

A comparison between the home interiors of the “Stepford Wives” and those of Joanna or Bobbie reveals two different performances of femininity. When Bobbie first comes into Joanna’s home, she says, “A messy kitchen. It’s beautiful. A home away from home.” Joanna’s kitchen is cluttered and in disarray. In every shot of the kitchen, there is chaos and mess. This contrasts with the usual Stepford Wife’s perfectly arranged, color-coordinated ironing room where everything is in place and order prevails. Visual clues such as the tidiness of the women’s kitchens are symbolic markers of the type of woman one is and an indication of her priorities.

For example, Joanna discerns that

Bobbie has been replaced by her avatar after visiting Bobbie’s home; Joanna finds Bobbie’s kitchen unusually and uncharacteristically tidy. Joanna knows that Bobbie’s kitchen would never be so clean or organized and remarks to Walter that it looked “like a TV commercial.” When Joanna leaves Bobbie’s home, frightened that she too will soon be converted into a “Stepford Wife,” the camera focuses on Bobbie. The camera’s angle shows the spotless countertop which Bobbie continues to scrub mindlessly.

The identity of a “Stepford Wife” is not

only a performance of cleanliness but also of whiteness. In the last scene of the movie, the camera pans across the grocery store. All of the women dress similarly, and as they glide through the grocery store, they exchange superficial pleasantries. This scene is the only instance where the movie features actors of color. A black couple argues, and the wife says, “I don’t want to spend my entire day in the supermarket.” The camera continues to pan from aisle-toaisle in the store. The presence of this black 124 couple may allude to the fact that

all women, regardless of race, are subject to society’s patriarchal oppression. The glaring emphasis on white women in the movie might be a reflection of the secondwave feminist focus on middle-class white women, a criticism that would be addressed as feminism moved forward in the writings of Audre Lorde and bell hooks, for example.11

I would also argue that the desire to clean,

one of the primary identity markers of being “Stepford,” is a desire for whiteness as the preferred identity. There is a connection between cleanliness and whiteness. Cleaning erases stains. It erases that which is not white. It erases black folk. This is not a new trope, for it can be seen in racist advertising cards from the late nineteenth century in which soap-makers boasted humorously that their soap was so effective it could turn black people white.12 Vestiges of this idea that cleanliness is the opposite of blackness is part of being Stepford—or part of suburban life in the postwar.

Mike Mills’ 2016 film 20th Century Women

poses an interesting coda to The Stepford Wives. Set in 1979 Southern California, it explores the relationship between a single mother named Dorothea and her adolescent son Jamie and the other women in their lives who shape his youth. One of these women, Abbie, is a twenty-eight year old photographer. Using her camera, Abbie not only attempts to capture her own identity but also that of her subjects.

Abbie’s personhood, like Joanna’s, is

formed through her photography. The first time that we encounter her on screen, she is taking photos of a procedure at her OBGYN. It is later revealed that she is recovering from cervical cancer. 125

Whereas many people would not consider photographing such intimate and potentially devastating situations, Abbie uses the camera to document or capture her medical diagnoses and experiences. It becomes clear that her cancer has harmed not only her physical health but also her emotional and mental health. By using her camera to photograph scenes of disappointment and anxiety, Abbie appears to regain some control over her situation. As a photographer she can define her existence through recording her lived experiences. She can also maintain her connection to life. This conceptual model for photography feeds into her images.

In 20th Century Women, Abbie’s camera

speaks to her life which is quite literally at risk given her medical condition and to the lives of those who surround her. The act of photographing as well as being photographed constitute identity formation and desire (she pretends to have William photograph her as part of their sexual foreplay). For Abbie, photography enables her to be both subject and object. Using her camera as a sort-of shield against the world and against her cancer, Abbie has the ability to define herself as “living” through and against the objects and people that make up her life. Integrating her photography with her progressive politics during the height of second-wave feminism, Abbie materializes an active position in the world using the camera—a position that demands taking a critical gaze directly at the world, even if that world to others may appear mundane. But Abbie’s photography does more than establish her own identity; it also creates identity for those around her.

Abbie’s photographs, for example, nurture Jamie’s youthful struggle with identity and self-confidence. Whereas Jamie appears

static and awkward in scenes with his mother, he is at total ease alone with Abbie and in front of her camera. The camera permits Jamie to project an aspirational vision of himself. Abbie, and her camera by extension, allow Jamie to be his most authentic self. Also, through Abbie’s photography, Dorothea, who may not fully understand her son, can at least peek into his world. At one point, Dorothea tells Abbie, “You get to see him out in the world a person. I never will.” Yet, Abbie’s photography is a medium through which Dorothea can see her son as independent from her. At one point Abbie offers Dorothea a photograph of Jamie drinking on the beach alone at night with Abbie, saying “here.” In the movie script Abbie’s line actually reads: “There, there it is.” The latter phrase, albeit subtly different from the spoken “here,” emphasizes Abbie's trust in the photo’s ability to literally capture the person in life. This demonstrates the camera’s capacity to establish the identity of others in addition to that of the photographer. It also allows Abbie as a woman to be active and engaged with her world, alive and empowered despite her illness.

20th Century Women is a contemporary film

which roughly presents the same time period in which The Stepford Wives is set. Through the juxtaposition of Joanna and Abbie, performances of femininity are provocatively constructed, at least in part, by the camera—the one used by these women and, one might say, the camera recording the movie itself. In these two films it is the woman with the camera who underscores the role that image-making plays as aggressive and restorative. Both films reveal the ambiguities of photography, that is, its ability to simultaneously capture and liberate. Just like these two films (and life itself), this tension is difficult yet ultimately beautiful.

Notes 1. Judy Klemesrud, “Feminists Recoil At Film Designed To Relate to Them,” New York Times, February 26, 1975. 2. See, for example, Jane Elliott, “Stepford U.S.A.: Second-Wave Feminism, Domestic Labor, and the Representation of National Time,” Cultural Critique, no. 70 (Fall 2008): 32–62; Bernice Murphy, “Imitations of Life: Zombies and the Suburban Gothic,” in Better Off Dead: The Evolution of Zombie as Post-Human, ed. Deborah Christie and Sarah Juliet Lauro (New York: Fordham University Press, 2011); and Julie Wosk, My Fair Ladies: Female Robots, Androids, and Other Artificial Eves (New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 2015). 3. Simone de Beauvoir, The Second Sex (New York: Vintage Books, [1949] 2010), 330. 4. Judith Butler, Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity (New York: Routledge, 2006), 191. 5. Susan Sontag, On Photography (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1977), 4. 6. John Berger, Ways of Seeing (London: British Broadcasting Corporation; Penguin, 1972), 47. 7. Laura Mulvey, “Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema,” Screen 16, no. 3 (October 1975): 6-18. 8. In the early 1970s, Disney World opened their Hall of Presidents attraction which included lifelike robotic animations of United States Presidents. This technology was available and publicly known, so one can assume that the “Stepford Wives” were similarly made. 9. Future attention could be given to the contradictory ways in which both “types” of women—the liberated and the “Stepford”— embody or reject ideas of machine-living. Whereas the “Stepford Wives” are mindless machines, Joanna uses her camera, a machine, to gain power. This association between Joanna and machinery is somewhat ambiguous and potentially undermines the subversiveness of Joanna’s photography, but it is a connection that cannot be ignored. 10. Sontag, On Photography, 14. 11. bell hooks, Feminist Theory: From Margin to Center (Boston: South End Press, 1984); Audre Lorde, Sister Outsider: Essays and Speeches (New York: Crossing Press, 1984). 12. For example, see N.K. Fairbank, Why Doesn’t Your Mamma Wash You With Fairy Soap?, 1890-1910, Advertising card, Box 2, Folder 18, Smithsonian Institution, National Museum of American History.


Alfred Bendiner, Drawing, Man Reading in a Boat Deck Chair; USA; pen and black ink, white laid paper; Gift of the Alfred and Elizabeth Bendiner Foundation; Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum, 1994-21-31; Photo: Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum


Qianwen Deng, Designer, is in her first year in the History of Design and Curatorial Studies program. Her areas of specialization are twentieth-century modernism, architecture and interior design, and Japanese and Chinese art. Sydney Friedman graduated from the History of Design and Curatorial Studies program in Spring 2018. Her areas of specialty are twentieth-century American popular culture and the design history of New York City and its public spaces. Lily Stav Gildor, Co-Editor in Chief, is in her final year in the History of Design and Curatorial Studies program. Her areas of specialization are twentieth-century American graphic design, feminist design, and printed media. Erin Monique Grant is in her second and final year in the History of Design and Curatorial Studies program. Her areas of specialization are nineteenth- and twentiethcentury American ceramics and silver. Through her coursework and museum internships, she has passionately studied Native American objects. Sebastian Grant is a graduate of the History of Design and Curatorial Studies program, having finished the program as a Cooper Hewitt Fellow. He also completed the program's first Curatorial Capstone project, helping to curate Cooper Hewitt's exhibition Jewelry of Ideas: The Susan Grant Lewin Collection. He currently works as a curator, art historian, and teacher at Parsons School of Design in New York City, where he teaches first-year courses. Ben Green is in his second and final year in the History of Design and Curatorial Studies program. His area of specialization is twentieth-century American visual and material culture. Lori Ettlinger Gross is a Fall 2018 graduate of the History of Design and Curatorial Studies program. Her areas of specialization are eighteenth-, nineteenth-, and twentieth-century jewelry design as it relates to the decorative arts, fashion, and history. Lori is an independent curator and in the coming year will be teaching a course on the history of jewelry design at Parsons School of Design. Mina Warchavchik Hugerth is in her final year in the History of Design and Curatorial Studies program. Her main interests revolve around twentieth-century furniture, focusing on the relations between objects and space and their social implications. 127

Susan Kinsey has completed her coursework for the History of Design and Curatorial Studies program. She is currently researching her M.A. thesis on early nineteenthcentury French moulĂŠ en plein glassware. Her other areas of interest include Art Nouveau furniture, glass, and metalwork, and she is an Associate of the Appraisers Association of America. Nicholas de Godoy Lopes is a recent graduate of the History of Design and Curatorial Studies program. His areas of interest include European design of the late nineteenth century, theories of ornament, and historical practices of displaying design. Forrest Pelsue received her M.A. in the History of Design and Curatorial Studies from Parsons Paris, where she explored conceptions of craft in the French context. Now based in New York, Forrest works as an independent writer and as part of the Audience Engagement team at the Brooklyn Museum. Virginia Pollock is in her first year in the History of Design and Curatorial Studies program. Her areas of specialization are eighteenth- and nineteenth-century American material culture. Sophia Salsbery is a recent graduate of the History of Design and Curatorial Studies program. Her areas of specialization are twentieth-century American popular culture in television and film, and twentieth-century American craft, with an emphasis on Native American craft. Margaret Simons is in her second year in the History of Design and Curatorial Studies program. Her past research has examined the evolution of twentieth-century residential and commercial interiors, while her current research focuses on the evolving material culture of contemporary design. Nick Stagliano, Co-Editor in Chief, is in his second and final year in the History of Design and Curatorial Studies program. His areas of specialization are seventeenthand eighteenth-century European ceramics and nineteenth-century American silver.

Christina Malman for Consumer's Union, Drawing, Woman Composing a Letter, 1942–45; USA; pencil and india ink with white heightening on cream paper; Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum, 1960-214-73; Photo: Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum


Special Thanks We would like to express our gratitude to all of those who have helped

make this issue of Objective a success: Our dedicated faculty; Dr. Sarah E. Lawrence, Dean of the School of Art and Design History and Theory at Parsons; Dr. Sarah A. Lichtman, Director, and Dr. Lorraine Karafel, Interim Director (2017–18), History of Design and Curatorial Studies MA program. We would also like to thank Caroline Baumann, Director of Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum and Cara McCarty, Cooper Hewitt Director of Curatorial. Cooper Hewitt curators Matilda McQuaid, Deputy Director of Curatorial and Head of Textiles; Caitlin Condell, Associate Curator and Head of Drawings, Prints and Graphic Design; and Emily Orr, Assistant Curator of Modern and Contemporary Design, took precious time to speak with us about their work. Their input was enlightening and immensely valuable. We also appreciate Alexandra Cunningham Cameron, Curator of Contemporary Design, and Laurie Bohlk, Associate Director of Communications and Marketing, for their attention to our content and design, as well as Janice Hussain, Digital Imaging Specialist, for supplying essential image support. Additionally, Molly Davy, Natalia Dare, and Stephanie PhaFa Roy provided important administrative help along with Danielle Bowers, Savanna Kustra and Matthew Kennedy. As always, we appreciate Roi Baron, the first designer of Objective, for his contribution to its visual style and ever-ready guidance. We thank our copy editors for their intelligent contributions to shaping this fourth issue of Objective. And, of course, we are grateful to our contributors, classmates, and alumni for sharing their exciting and diverse scholarly pursuits. We are indebted to our fellow student and talented designer Qianwen Deng for her graphic expertise. We extend a final and special thanks to our faculty advisor, Dr. Marilyn Cohen, for so carefully guiding this process to completion.



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