Monday, September 15, 2008

1. Re: "a marginalized discipline" . "suddenly wonderous and revelatory" (Stanley Bulbach)

Since it seemed to pass by unnoticed amongst most of the fibercommunity, I want to share a local news report of importance to theentire fiber community. The news was featured in not one, but two --TWO !! -- front page stories on the New York Times Wednesday, September 10.

The Front Page of the New York Times carried the stories, "Curator atMet Named Director of the Museum" by Carol Vogel and "A New Voice From Within" by Michael Kimmelman. When Director Philippe deMontebello retires in January, he will be replaced by Thomas P.Campbell, the Met's Curator of Textiles. Again as in the past, thewriters emphasized the importance of his exhibition, "Tapestry in theRenaissance: Art and Magnificence".

Mr. Kimmelman wrote "He no doubt is only known to a wider public asthe curator behind the Renaissance and Baroque tapestry shows thatwere among the finest, most beautiful and most praised exhibitionsthe museum has done in years. Via those shows and their heftycatalogs, Mr. Campbell brought to life a marginalized discipline andmade it seem suddenly wondrous and revelatory."

Ms. Vogel wrote "His exhibition "Tapestry in the Renaissance: Artand Magnificence" became the sleeper hit of 2002, attracting some215,000 visitors, more than twice what the museum had project, withmany works that had never been seen in America."

(That story from 2002 alone -- of double the number of visitors thanthe museums best projections -- should be a constant topic ofdiscussion on our fiber bulletin boards, in our fiber publications,in our fiber organizations, etc.)

I think we fiberists can rejoice that a curator in our field is beingacknowledged in this manner. And not just any textile curator, butone who is cited as knowing the rules of bona fide academic research-- relatively unknown in our field -- including the primaryrequirement that you actually have to look at a field's contentaccountably before you pass "expert" judgment on limited parts ofit. For years I have attempted to urge fiberists to encourage anopen dialogue about the importance of our work and how it isinaccurately overshadowed in the broader art world.

To this day, most of our fiber bulletin boards still prohibitnon-technical discussions. Our media, for example Interweave Press,is increasingly owned by investment companies, for example, AspireMedia, that focus on fiber as a retirement distraction and not alsoan art form equal to others. Our primary advocacy organizations, forexample HGA and ACC, have lost about 20% of their membership base andeconomic support over recent years. Yet we have censored ourselvesfrom speaking out in a normal, constructive, academicallyinvigorating manner to preserve and improve our field.

Thus, there is even more reason to celebrate today the Met'sselection of Mr. Campbell as its new Director. This is the mostencouraging news I've seen on the front page of the New York Times inquite some time!

Three cheers from New York City,

PS. I sent this report Wednesday to the American TapestryAssociation, and there has been dead silence in response! I find nofield that matches ours for pursed lips and self imposed silenceabout our relatively poor position.

Stanley Bulbach, Ph.D.

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