The Lynn Mecklenburg Textile Gallery provides a space dedicated to rotating exhibitions of the School of Human Ecology’s Helen Louise Allen Textile Collection, making the collection even more accessible to the public, including providing free admission to all.
Woven Together: Hello Loom at Copenhagen Contemporary
This exhibition explores themes of materiality, process and international collaboration. In 2019, University of Wisconsin-Madison associate professor Marianne Fairbanks and textile artist Sofia Hagström Møller invited a group of professional Danish weavers to contribute pieces produced on Fairbank’s hand-held Hello Looms for a show at Copenhagen Contemporary. The resulting 37 weavings use a wide variety of materials and explore a multitude of compositions.
Rapid Response Mask Collecting Project
This exhibition seeks to understand the new ways in which textiles play a critical role in our daily lives as protective face coverings. To do so, it uses a “rapid response” collecting model to select masks for the Helen Louise Allen Textile Collection that are at the center of many and varied national conversations which mark this contemporary moment as historic. Each item in the show evidences and questions notions of protection and safety across different sectors of society.
Sofia Hagström Møller: Weaving Threads Through Time and Space
This exhibition of Sofia Hagström Møller’s work investigates the roots of Scandinavian textile design and celebrates the legacy that American weaving owes to these traditions. By translating her grandmother’s patterns through the digital technology available to her during a recent residency at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Hagström Møller’s work transcends language and travels through time and space.
UNPACKED: Refugee Baggage
UNPACKED: Refugee Baggage seeks to humanize the word “refugee.” This multimedia exhibit features the sculptures of Mohamad Hafez, a Syrian-born, Connecticut-based artist and architect who re-creates war-torn domestic interiors within suitcases. Each piece is based on interviews with refugees who were forced to leave their homes in countries ranging from Syria and Afghanistan, to the Democratic Republic of Congo, and who now reside in the United States. As visitors view Hafez’s sculptures, they can both hear and read these recorded interviews, which were collected by Iraqi-born Wesleyan University student, writer, and speaker, Ahmed Badr. Included in the series are Hafez and Badr’s own stories, which detail Hafez’s inability to return to Syria, and the bomb that entered Badr’s family home.
Pieces from the Helen Louise Allen Textile Collection will be placed in dialogue with UNPACKED, which provides a unique opportunity to reinterpret the School of Human Ecology holdings. In this accompanying display, textiles represent three distinct categories: items that are thematically related to Hafez and Badr’s work, making traditions endangered by war, and objects made by refugees. A significant portion of this material will be exhibited for the first time, including metallic Syrian “aghabbani” silks, a monumental woven and embroidered Southern Iraqi rug with vibrant colors and motifs, and exceptional Cambodian ikat raw silk wrapped garments. Of particular note are Hmong Story Cloths, which depict individuals escaping war and that create important connections to Wisconsin’s diverse Hmong communities.
The UNPACKED exhibition’s sponsoring partner is the University of Wisconsin–Madison Middle East Studies Program.
Intersections: Indigenous Textiles of the Americas
Indigenous scholars Kendra Greendeer (Ho-Chunk) and Dakota Mace (Diné) co-curate an exhibition exploring material interrelationships among cultures with long histories of exchange throughout the Americas.
From the Andes to the Great Lakes, textiles reflect many cultural narratives of community and tradition. This exhibition analyzes select textiles from the Helen Louise Allen Textile Collection and the Little Eagle Arts Foundation, a Ho-Chunk arts organization, to provide a deeper understanding of the lifeways, movement, and stories these objects embodied. It is through these points of intersection that scholars may trace the interrelations of Native cultural practices and oral traditions throughout the western hemisphere and spanning more than a thousand years of history
Greendeer and Mace reflected on the show: “As Indigenous curators, we felt that it was important to create an exhibition that came from an Indigenous perspective. We wanted to provide a new window to recognize and acknowledge the complexity and interconnectedness of Indigenous peoples through textiles.”
NOTE: The gallery is currently closed due to COVID-19 recommendations.
About the Textile Gallery
In 2019, the Lynn Mecklenburg Textile Gallery was established as a place to host rotating exhibits with work from the Helen Louise Allen Textile Collection. Exhibitions can also include contemporary textiles by national and international makers, as well as non-textile objects presented in conversation with the textile collection.
Exhibitions at the textile gallery are curated by the Center for Design and Material Culture staff, faculty, and guest curators and are mounted throughout the academic year. This space features LED lighting and an intimate setting.
The gallery was made possible through generous donor support. Their philanthropy advances Professor Helen Louise Allen’s life work of promoting the knowledge and understanding of cultures through engagement with textiles and other material artifacts.
History of the Textile Gallery
Anticipating the 50th anniversary celebration of the Helen Louise Allen Textile Collection (HLATC) in 2019, Lynn Mecklenburg, Susan Engstrom and Jane Villa, three members of the HLATC Development Committee, provided the philanthropic leadership for a fundraising effort to create a dedicated textile gallery. Loyal HLATC donors, Sandra and Jack Winder, soon joined this effort. With additional funds from the estate of Kathleen “Katie” Orea Sweeney, the renovation of the Lynn Mecklenburg Reading Room to the Lynn Mecklenburg Textile Gallery commenced. Their collective dream for a space dedicated to featuring pieces from the HLATC stemmed from their love of textiles and the belief that textiles have a universal appeal, the power to tell stories of a shared humanity and cultural experiences.