Current Exhibit : 

Remember the Ladies: A Commemoration of 100 Years of Women’s Suffrage

Available Virtually! 

2020 has been a challenging and extraordinary year. We are facing a tumultuous election period in a very divided world. Our daily lives have been upended by the realities of pandemic that has altered the very core of how we experience and navigate the world. We have struggled with the legacies of racial violence and their continued impact on our world today.  So much of what I had planned for the Gallery this summer, fall, and winter has had to pivot in many different ways. This exhibit was meant to open this exhibit physically this past summer, however, for the safety of our College students and our visitors, we remain closed at this time. As the fall semester has progressed, it became clear that the best course of action was to shift to a virtual platform. I felt very strongly that the exhibit needed to go on, even if the way it is experienced is different. I choose to release “Remember the Ladies” on election day to both pay homage to our ancestors who worked so hard to enfranchise us and to highlight the long way we need to go to ensure that voting and full equality becomes an indisputable right of citizenship.

Why coverlets? It’s true that coverlets themselves are not normally thought of as pieces of material culture related to voting and political discussion. They adorned beds, were gifted at significant life events, decorated home spaces, and were very much a part of general domestic life. For this exhibit I have selected coverlets from significant times and locations in the history of the women’s movement. For me, they represent the marriage between the realities of women’s daily lives and the hope for representation in arenas of political decision making. For many women, regardless of ethnicity or class, politics were a way to lobby for greater resources for homes, families, and communities. They were a way to represent the interests of housewives along with businessmen.

Politics were a route to economic autonomy and an independent legal existence outside of one’s spouse. A coverlet was a rather mundane, everyday household object. But it was here at home where women began to talk about access to voting rights and equality. Political thoughts ran through people’s minds as they lay in bed at night. Conversations about the need for equality were had around kitchen tables. Plans for protest and resistance ignited within the four walls of the home. In our most intimate space, our home, we spark ideas. We pray for a better tomorrow. We take action that we hope can alter the world.

I do not know the women who owned these coverlets or their politics, but I imagine that they had many conversations about their lives and what they believed was important to them while in their homes. These objects remind us that our political ideas and thoughts are worked out in the home between family and friends. Our material culture witnesses those exchanges and bear witness to our political action forged in the home.

Technological Textiles: Computing History and Decorative Textiles

January 17, 2020 – TBD

Visit Technological Textiles Online During our Covid-19 Closure

Generative art, or art created with coding as a central characteristic, emerges as the focus of the McCarl Coverlet Gallery’s spring exhibit which focuses on computing technology in the early textile industry. The coverlets emerge as early examples of generative art uses an autonomous system, or the use of an external system to which the artist gives partial or total control. An important highlight in the history of generative art is the invention of the Jacquard loom in 1801. The handloom itself featured a weaving attachment that used introduced the concept of a stored “computer-like” program in the form of punched-cards. These automated cards allowed weavers to produce and replicate complex patterns in textiles quickly and efficiently. Jacquard’s invention revolutionized the weaving industry and punch-card technology paved the way for the invention of both the computer and later forms of generative and algorithmic art.

At Home in the 1800s

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Thousands of visitors to the McCarl Gallery have appreciated the beauty and craftsmanship of woven coverlets and the machinery that produced them. Rarely, however, do we stop to consider the high cost, paid in human lives, of 19th century cotton and textile production in the American South and the industry’s dependence on the enslavement of Africans.  Cotton grown in the South fueled the Northern textile mills and the products of those mills were sold within the United States and abroad. Weavers relied on spun cotton thread from these mills and the demand for coverlets and other textiles drove the expansion of Southern slavery. The exhibit will juxtapose the visual magnificence of woven textiles with the inhumane realities of 19th century cotton manufacture. Most of the coverlets chosen for this exhibit were intentionally selected because they have unknown weavers or origins. We chose “unknowns” to reflect the realities of the lives of thousands of unknown men and women whose lives were sacrificed at the expense of the cotton industry and who often remain invisible within the coverlet industry.

Through January, 2018

Hours:

  • Saturdays and Sundays: By appointment depending on staff availability
  • Closed Monday
  • Tuesday to Friday: Noon to 4 p.m.
  • Wednesday Evening 6:30 to 8 p.m.
  • Summer Hours: (Memorial Day to Labor Day): Tuesday to Sunday Noon to 3 p.m. and Wednesday and Thursday 6:30 to 8 p.m.