Politics at Home: Textiles as American History
Opening in the Ruth Davis Design Gallery, Fall Semester 2021
Featuring work from the Helen Louise Allen Textile Collection ranging from the 18th through the 21st centuries, this exhibition includes a range of domestic textiles that demonstrate how public discourses of American politics have always had a meaningful presence within the home. Through production, consumption, and conscious display of textiles, including quilts, pillowcases, furnishing fabric samples, handkerchiefs, and ornaments, objects in the home signal political beliefs and ideals. Join us in exploring participation and representation in American politics in the home through textiles.
Online Launch: June 2021. "The Portal: A Step into The Past" is an online exhibition/virtual experience featuring student-designed historic interiors. Juried by Shana McCaw, Brent Budsberg, and Jonathan Prown and digitally curated by IA design studies students, the exhibit showcases selected period rooms from course “DS 422: History of Architecture.”
Online Launch May 8, 2021. Inspired by botanical history, land use, and plant ecologies as they relate to us as citizens and noncitizens, this exhibition builds connections between Obeng's experiences as a surveilled non-citizen and plant specimens in the UW–Madison Herbarium through hundreds of cyanotype images presented on handmade paper made from recycled Badger T-shirts.
Online Launch: Fall 2020. Since March of 2020 face masks have become our central tool in the fight against COVID-19. This exhibition seeks to understand the new ways in which textiles play a critical role in our daily lives as protective face coverings. It uses a “rapid response” collecting model to select masks for the HLATC which mark this contemporary moment as historic.
Online Launch: June 2021. The CDMC and the Design Studies Department present a virtual edition of SoHE’s annual juried student exhibition. UW-Madison students of all majors were invited to submit their best design work generated through Design Studies courses over the past four semesters.
Online Launch: April 16, 2021. To weavers, the phrase “tromp as writ” means that the sequence of threading is repeated in the foot-operated treadling; a single set of instructions can function for both setting up the loom and for the movement of the weaver’s feet while working. The pieces in this exhibition explore the interaction of text and pattern through hand-woven images.
Was to be installed in Gallery: April 29-June 7, 2020. Online Launch: Summer 2020. Artist Sonja Bäumel, collaborating with Helen Blackwell of the UW-Madison Department of Chemistry, explores the perception of what bodies are made of through microbes and the body’s surface. Bäumel reimagines skin as a fictional layer of communication, and as a multi-being landscape linked to the discovery of the human microbiome.
Online Launch: May 8, 2021. "Flannel Futures" inquires into the making of memory, questions the perseverance of tradition versus the conjuring of new normals, and wonders how we will commemorate that which we have used to commemorate our own past from the vantage point of the future.
Online Launch: April 16, 2021. This exhibition of creative works is designed to provoke awareness of the adverse ecological impacts of the fashion industry. During washing and manufacturing synthetic textile products, thousands of different chemicals and tons of microfibers are emitted, and the emission causes risks to aquatic organisms...
Installed in Gallery: February 26, 2020–April 5, 2020. Online Launch: Summer 2020. This exhibition showcases the work of art and design faculty from across the U.S. to address how art and design express cultural integration and creativity. The CAAFA represents the U.S. & China.
NOTE: The gallery is currently closed due to COVID-19 recommendations.
About the Design Gallery
The majority of exhibitions at the Ruth Davis Design Gallery are organized by Center for Design and Material Culture staff, campus faculty, and guest curators who collaborate with a variety of campus departments and organizations.
In addition to bringing outside makers to the space, the design gallery also exhibits work by School of Human Ecology Design Studies students working in Interior Architecture and Textiles and Fashion Design, as well as design students from across campus. These exhibitions are also an opportunity for students to develop exhibition design and installation skills.
History of the Design Gallery
During her 32-year career in the School, Ruth Danielson Davis (BS ’31, MS ’40, MFA ’76) developed the artistic talents of thousands of students and exhibited her artwork across the world. Appointed to the Related Art Department (now Design Studies) in 1943, Davis taught “Fundamentals of Design,” and authored a textbook to accompany it. Her advanced elective courses included “3-D Design,” “History of American Interiors,” and the and the laboratory portion of Helen Allen’s course on decorative textiles.
Davis was futuristic, as well as grounded, in viewing the natural environment as the source for sound design thinking. She was concerned with green and sustainable design 50 years before they became known as environmental design concepts.
Ruth Davis’ transformational estate gift to the School of Human Ecology in 2012 underscores her commitment to the faculty and students.