Last Sunday Mark and I went to the opening celebration of the spectacular new exhibit at the Ruth Davis Design Gallery in Nancy Nicholas Hall at SOHE. I'm already planning my next visit to "Woven Gardens of Hope" because this is a show you will want to see more than once. It is so visually rich that it's almost impossible to absorb it all in one trip.
The opening events last Sunday included an inspiring talk by Connie Duckworth (below), the founder of Arzu Studio Hope whose company works with women in Afghanistan to produce high end carpets for sale around the world. Many Arzu carpets are in the exhibit. So many people turned out for her presentation they had to bring more chairs into a very large lecture room that had already been set up for a big crowd!
Many of the carpets on display came from the Minasian brothers who have a store in Evanston and are also collectors. The opening included traditional music with food by Kabul Restaurant. It was a vibrant celebration with a huge crowd filling the gallery and every level of "The Link," the atrium surrounding it. The Miniasian Rug Company and Sergenian's Floor Covering funded the opening.
Though you may have missed this special opening, there are other events on the schedule (see link below). But it's the rugs that are the real draw. The exhibit includes new and antique carpets of every size and style on the walls, the floor and hanging from the ceiling. There are rugs running like waterfalls down the wall and puddling in ripples on the floor.
These rugs have to be seen to be believed: the scale of many of the carpets is mind-boggling and the workmanship is supberb. And unlike many fiber exhibits, we are allowed to touch the carpets and even to walk on them! Items from the Helen Louise Allen Textile Collection that are on display, however, can only be enjoyed visually.
The gallery is filled with an explosion of color, pattern and texture. Walking through it is like rambling through a souk or bazaar, with a surprise around every turn.
There is enough information to provide context for what you're looking at but not so much as to be either annoying or overwhelming.
In addition to the wealth of carpets, there are also many articles of clothing ranging from robes to hats to shawls like this semi-sheer example covered with embroidery.
All of us got up close and personal in order to fully appreciate the rich detail on so many garments.
Many of the articles of clothing are not only covered with embroidery but they glitter with mirrors and beading, like the items hanging behind Liese Pfeifer, Academic Curator for Ruth Davis Design Gallery at School of Human Ecology, UW Madison.
One of the more impressive groups of textiles are these tent bands draped overhead and trailing down to the floor like giant ribbons.
Woven Gardens of Hope: Afghan Women's Carpets runs through March 1. You can find information about gallery days and hours here.
Here are details on all the events related to the Woven Gardens of Hope exhibit.
Here is more information on the story of Arzu Studio Hope.