On July 18 from 5 – 9 pm, The Kluge-Ruhe Aboriginal Art Collection of UVA will open its new exhibition With Her Hands: Women’s Fiber Art from Gapuwiyak: The Louise Hamby Gift, curated by six undergraduate students from diverse backgrounds. The exhibition features baskets, dilly bags, mats, sculptures and necklaces selected from a gift of 100 fiber artworks recently donated to Kluge-Ruhe by anthropologist Dr. Louise Hamby. The artworks in this significant gift—the first in an ongoing series of donations—address topics of tradition and innovation, gender roles, generational change, and relationships to place, and the Hamby gift will establish Kluge-Ruhe as a world center for the study of contemporary Aboriginal women’s fiber art.
This summer, Kluge-Ruhe is training the next generation of curators while addressing the pressing lack of diversity in American museums, as part of UVA’s broader Mellon Indigenous Arts Initiative. Six undergraduate students—Barriane Franks (Xavier University of Louisiana), Antionette Griffin (Auburn University at Montgomery), Hannah Jeffries (University of North Carolina at Pembroke), Helen Martinez (University of Houston-Downtown), Diana Proenza (New College of Florida), and Victoria Morales Rodriguez (University of Puerto Rico- Mayaguez)—have traveled to Charlottesville for the Mellon Summer Curatorial Research Program, which is designed to train curators from backgrounds underrepresented in the museum professions. Under the supervision of Kluge-Ruhe Curator Henry F. Skerritt and two UVA graduate students in the English department, Eva Latterner and Cassie Davies, the curatorial students are learning every aspect of designing an exhibition, from writing wall labels down to choosing wall colors.
Given that 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 that a 2015 study showed 73% of museum leadership positions are occupied by men, this exhibition is remarkably unique. With six women of color curating works by 25 Indigenous women artists, With Her Hands: Women’s Fiber Art from Gapuwiyak: The Louise Hamby Gift challenges issues of gender and representation in the museum profession.
“I view this exhibition as a chance to recognize and showcase the often-unheard voices of gifted female artists,” says curator Diana Proenza of New College of Florida.
Louise Hamby and fiber artist Lucy Malirrimurruwuy Wanapuyngu are visiting Charlottesville to advise the project and to offer public workshops in dyeing and weaving.
With Her Hands: Women’s Fiber Art from Gapuwiyak: The Louise Hamby Gift, and the accompanying catalogue, will be launched on Thursday, July 18 at Kluge-Ruhe’s Night at the Museum event from 5-9pm. The curatorial students will present short “flat-chat” tours of key works in the exhibition. The event will also feature live original music by The Sally Rose Band, food trucks, and local beer and wine. Admission is $5 for non-members and free for museum members. The event is family-friendly and no reservations are needed. For more information about the museum and this event, visit kluge-ruhe.org or call 434-244-0234.