by Susan Brown and Alexa Griffith Winton

A Dark, A Light, A Bright: The Designs of Dorothy Liebes is the first exhibition on this path-breaking designer in over fifty years, and the accompanying book is the first ever monograph on its subject. We’re so proud to be re-introducing this titan of American design at Cooper Hewitt, the nation’s design museum, and to be presenting new scholarship that we hope we launch many new lines of inquiry for students, historians, and lovers of 20th century design.

The digital platform that accompanies the exhibition builds even further on the research presented in the exhibition and book. It offers more in-depth essays on many of the projects presented in the exhibition, as well as new stories unique to the platform, ranging from Liebes’s designs for the SS Independence passenger liner to her distinctive carved looms to her personal style in jewelry. Many of our Cooper Hewitt colleagues caught the Liebes bug and offered to contribute to this team effort, including Cross-Platform Publishing Associate Matthew Kennedy, Collections Manager Kimberly Randall, and Textile Conservators Kira Eng-Wilmot and Janet Lee, who shared the results of a technical analysis of the synthetic materials in Liebes’s textile samples. The platform also showcases the work of our Parsons History of Design and Curatorial Studies Fellows Erin Dowding and Zachary Sauer. In addition to her written contributions, research assistant Charlotte von Hardenburgh is responsible for many aspects of the visual presentation of the digital platform. Fashion and textile historian Leigh Wishner, who is also a contributor to the book, shared her insights on Liebes’s collaborations with fashion designers Adrian, Clare Potter, and Bonnie Cashin.

We were fortunate to receive support from Smithsonian’s American Women’s History Initiative to explore narratives of queer and BIPOC members of the Dorothy Liebes Studio; their stories are  found in the Studio Weavers section of the platform. A few people who worked for Liebes are still living, and speaking with them about their experiences in the studio has been one of the great joys of this project. This is very much ongoing research, so check back for more stories about the many designers and weavers who contributed to the “Liebes Look”!

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