Jul 24, 2019

On June 2, the Mellon Indigenous Arts Initiative welcomed six undergraduate students from around the country to participate in the Summer Curatorial Research Project, an eight-week intensive program designed to train a new generation of curators from backgrounds underrepresented in the museum professions. The students attended museum studies workshops and field trips led by staff at The Fralin Museum of Art, and researched Australian Indigenous fiber arts at the Kluge-Ruhe Aboriginal Art Collection under the guidance of Henry F Skerritt, Curator of the Indigenous Arts of Australia, and two UVA graduate students, Cassie Davies and Eva Latterner (English Department). Their research efforts resulted in a new exhibition at Kluge-Ruhe titled With Her Hands: Women’s Fiber Art from Gapuwiyak: The Louise Hamby Gift, opening July 18.

Basket weaving photo courtesy of Louse Hamby

Photo courtesy of Louse Hamby

With Her Hands features baskets, dilly bags, mats, sculptures and necklaces made by women Indigenous artists. The exhibition challenges issues of gender and representation in the museum profession. Modern and contemporary art exhibitions disproportionately represent male artists (the Guerrilla Girls counted in 2012 that less than 4% of the artists in the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s modern art sections were women), and a 2015 study showed that 73% of museum leadership positions are occupied by men. By contrast, With Her Hands: Women’s Fiber Art from Gapuwiyak highlights works by 25 Indigenous women artists, curated by six women of color.

Mat by Lesley Wininingu Guyula

Mat by Lesley Wininingu Guyula

The objects on display are selected from a gift of 100 fiber artworks recently donated to Kluge-Ruhe by anthropologist Dr. Louise Hamby. The Hamby gift will establish Kluge-Ruhe as a world center for the study of contemporary Aboriginal women’s fiber art.

With Her Hands opens July 18 at the Kluge-Ruhe’s Night at the Museum event, and will be on display until spring 2020.

For more information about the Summer Curatorial Research Program, contact Catherine Walden, cew9f@virginia.edu.

Photo: Summer curatorial students in top row, from left to right: Diana Proenza, New College of Florida; Barriane Franks, Xavier University of Louisiana; Antionette Griffin, Auburn University at Montgomery; Helen Martinez, University of Houston-Downtown; Victoria Morales Rodriguez, University of Puerto Rico- Mayaguez; Hannah Jeffries, University of North Carolina at Pembroke.

Bottom row, from left to right, fiber artist Anna Ramatha Malibirr; Dr Louise Hamby; fiber artist Lucy Malirrimurruwuy Wanapuyngu. Photo credit Tom Cogill.