PUBLICATION REVIEWS


Publication Reviews 35.4



folk-art-of-the-andes-by-barbara-mauldinBarbara Mauldin 2011 Folk Art of the Andes. Santa Fe,
Museum of New Mexico Press: 304 pp., hardcover $50.00.

Published to accompany an exhibition of the same name at the Museum of International Folk Art in Santa Fe, New Mexico, Folk Art of the Andes takes a comprehensive look at an array of great Andean craft traditions: textiles and costumes; the utilitarian, including everything from jewelry to house blessing ornaments to drinking cups and stirrups; a wide diversity of religious folk art, and the elaborate costumes for festivals and masquerade. Author Barbara Mauldin, curator of Latin American Folk Art at the museum, concentrates on an especially fascinating historical time frame: from the end of Spanish colonial rule up to the near present, when indigenous populations became free to create an abundance of folk art combining their own aesthetics and materials with the influence of European artforms and techniques. Largely concentrating on the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, with a bit of the twenty-first century, most examples come from the central Andean countries of Bolivia, Peru and Ecuador, with additional selections from Venezuela, Colombia, Chile, and Argentina.

In lucid, engaging prose, Mauldin delves into the richness, craftsmanship and multi-layered social and cultural meanings of artisan-made objects in a complex, caste-bound world. Along with a wealth of in-depth information, what emerges is a portrait of living folk art traditions, that have adapted and been revitalized, to flourish with even greater power and beauty today. The book abounds with over four hundred wonderfully-detailed photographs, both of individual pieces and of Andean people at work, worship and at dances, pageants and pilgrimages. As a general introduction and an excellent reference guide, Folk Art of the Andes is an invaluable resource to gladden the hearts of collectors, scholars, travelers, and armchair anthropologists.

 

Leslie Clark

 

 

 

blue-jeans-by-daniel-miller-and-sophie-woodward Daniel Miller and Sophie Woodward 2012 Blue Jeans: The Art of the Ordinary. Berkeley, University of California Press: 184 pp., hardcover $60.00, softcover $24.95.

What starts out as a study of everyday clothing evolves into a deeper examination of the meaning of “ordinary,” which the authors of Blue Jeans define as “something people do, rather than something they strive to be.” Through interviews with residents of an average London neighborhood, anthropologist Daniel Miller and sociologist Sophie Wood attempt to pinpoint the appeal of “something that has become so ubiquitous and apparently self-evident that it can be hard to see it at all.”

The answer is both surprising and obvious: comfort. While the study’s subjects extol the physical comfort of jeans, what they crave—and describe—is actually social comfort: the anonymity and acceptance that jeans offer. “There is an elision between the idea that the jeans go with anything and the idea that the person goes with anyone,” the authors observe. Furthermore, wearing jeans releases us from uncomfortable tasks, whether shopping, dressing up or selecting something else to wear. The illusion that jeans are physically comfortable may persist, the authors suggest, “because historically there was once just such an association between jeans and practicality.”

The authors posit that jeans are a “post-semiotic garment” in “post-identity” London—a city largely composed of immigrants and transplants, who are widely dispersed rather than clustered in tight-knit communities. The argument is not entirely persuasive, and it is tempting to speculate how their findings might have been different if they had conducted the study in the United States. Certainly, London residents—regardless of their place of birth—have a different, stronger concept of “vulgarity” in dress, connoting “differentiation or aspiration.” While jeans were once synonymous with America and the Wild West, the authors convincingly demonstrate that “no one wears jeans today in order to appear more American.” Jeans have truly gone global, which may explain why so many of the study’s subjects felt that they are appropriate and even necessary for travel wear. Purists may lament that Levi’s are no longer made primarily in the USA, but they are no longer worn primarily in the USA, either.

The authors also note that the British in general have higher brand awareness than other nationalities; however, while some of their subjects owned designer jeans, they rarely wore them. Despite all the brands, cuts, rises, sizes, and colors available today, the interviewees valued fit over price or label. “Curiously, no one we interviewed talked of this range of denim styles as something positive,” the authors noted. The widening array of choices in jeans only left the subjects resentful and frustrated; those who remained loyal to one brand did so strictly for the sake of convenience.

As “there is now no age group that does not wear jeans,” they have suffered from the “Jeremy Clarkson effect,” which could be renamed the “Al Gore effect” for American audiences: jeans have become the uniform of middle-aged men trying to look cool, or at least cooler. Conversely, the authors suggest, “jeans may well signify a genuine shift that makes elderly people more effectively integrated into the mainstream than previously.” The book’s title implies a visual component, but there is no “art” here; the book is not illustrated, and the authors are more interested in blue jeans as a concept (or perhaps a state of mind) than as an object. Although they mention taking documentary photographs as part of their research, none are included in the book, raising the question of what part physical material should play in material culture studies.

While its conflation of Levi Strauss and Lévi-Strauss is a bit heavy handed, Blue Jeans provides a useful introduction to sociological theories and methodologies; it would be an ideal text for students. The authors valiantly attempt to correct the bias in fashion studies whereby spectacular, rarely-worn garments receive more attention than the humble and mundane. Through that most basic of wardrobe basics, Miller and Woodward make a compelling case for “the profundity and importance of ordinariness.”

 

Kimberly Chrisman-Campbell

 

 

 

journal-of-proceedings-of-second-borneo-international-beads-conference-2011-by-heidi-munan-and-freya-martinHeidi Munan and Freya Martin (compiler and editor) 2011
Journal of proceedings of second Borneo International Beads Conference 2011. Sarawak, Malaysia: 196 pp., softcover $40.00 postpaid. Contact crafthub@gmail.com.

While there were thirteen presenters at the 2011 Borneo Bead Conference, only ten papers were published in this volume, by mostly Sarawakan and foreign bead or beadwork specialists, each illustrated with full color. Most concentrated on the islands of Southeast Asia, with one each on Australia, Canada, India, and South Africa. Bead use and customs, still important on Borneo and nearby Indonesia, are well covered. Alok Kanungo brought welcome new insight on bead use among the Nagas of India and Myanmar, especially as it relates to their role in burials. Preston-Whyte reviews beadwork in South Africa and its revival, aided by culture-brokers who helped globalize this popularity. Louise Hamby provides insight into the role of strung ornaments among the Aboriginal women of Arnhem Land in Australia. These annual bead conferences and their publications are through the efforts of Heidi Munan and others associated with Crafthub, which seeks to promote crafts and the craft heritage among the local population and the youth of Sarawak.

 

Robert K. Liu

 

 

 

native-american-bolo-ties-vintage-and-contemporary-artistry-by-diana-f-pardue-with-norman-l-sandfieldDiana F. Pardue, with Norman L. Sandfield 2011 Native American Bolo Ties: Vintage and Contemporary Artistry, Santa Fe, Museum of New Mexico Press: 155 pp., softcover $29.95. The book is available through the Heard Museum Shop: www.heardmuseumshop.com.

Diana F. Pardue, Curator of Collections at the Heard Museum, and Norman L. Sandfield, a collector and antique dealer based in Chicago, have combined to produce a ‘beyond a curio’ of a book on bolo ties. Here is a book worthy of inclusion in a professional or personal library, whether the interest is in jewelry, fashion accessory, history of adornment, artwear, Native Americans, or popular culture history. Crossing and linking many types of genres, Pardue and Sandfield supplely take the reader on a journey that anchors the bolo tie to its antecedents, shows the vintage to the contemporary, its popularization and the forms it took throughout regions of the country, and its transition from men’s jewelry to an artistic statement as part of an artist’s total jewelry repertoire. One unexpected but fascinating chapter discusses the role of patents for bolo fittings and how they helped in determining the date and place of origin for some undated and unsigned vintage ties and the minutia involved in trying to discover their correct attribution.

One leaves the last pages of Native American Bolo Ties much more appreciative of its heritage and contribution to both common culture and high art. With more than two hundred illustrations of vintage and contemporary bolo ties by mostly Zuni, Hopi and Navajo makers, there is plenty to examine in the variety of styles, materials and designs in this one aspect of Native American creativity. Better yet, for the actual experience of seeing them and their historical documentation visit the Heard Museum’s exhibition showing through November 4, 2012, in Phoenix, Arizona.

 

Carolyn L. E. Benesh

 

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Our upcoming issue 37.4 contains

 

Nubian Jewelry

Kate Mensah

Philadelphia Craft Show

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