Author: Rachel Ward Sepielli

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Image features: Beaded hat depicting a leopard on top of a face with exaggerated features. Scarification depicted as three vertical lines under the eyes. Please scroll down to read the blog post about this object.
Leopard Headpiece
The Bamileke people are the dominant group inhabiting the southern part of the Cameroon Grasslands, where raffia, oil palms, and banana trees are plentiful. The Bamileke are organized into chiefdoms, each headed by an absolute ruler, or fon. The fon has an eight-member advisory council made up of descendants of the kingdom’s founders. Traditionally, he...
Image features a length of woven textile with a deep blue ground and pattern of curved intersecting lines in medium blue. Please scroll down to read the blog post about this object.
Albemarle
Among Sir Paul Smith’s upholstery fabrics for Maharam, the dominant motifs are bolder and quirkier versions of classic menswear patterns such as stripes, plaid, herringbone, and houndstooth check. In a significant departure, the designer has based his latest on an iconic architectural feature. Named for the central London street address of the flagship Paul Smith...
Image features: Length of printed cotton with a pattern of faces, clocks, and clock hands in black, white and yellow on a gray ground. Please scroll down to read the blog post about this object.
Clock Watchers
Laura Jean Allen rose to fame by the time she was 30 as an illustrator for Seventeen magazine and designer of clothing and cosmetic compacts for teenaged girls. She became involved with Associated American Artists in the early 1950s and was soon one of the group’s most prolific textile designers. Upon the 1954 release of...
Image features: Dark yellow fabric with vertical columns of rounded geometric shapes in neat clusters, each with a zigzag border and filled with a smiling face. Each face is filled with red and orange polka dots. Please scroll down to read the blog post about this object.
Sunshine Smile
Gay Façade, a textile design featuring whimsical line drawings of geometrically shaped suns with smiling faces, was designed by John Hull for Associated American Artists. It was produced in multiple colorways, another of which (1994-38-8) is currently in the museum’s collection. In this version, suns are outlined in black and partially filled by red and...
Image features: Dark gray and orange fish swim up and down on a purple and light gray ground. Please scroll down to read the blog post about this object.
Natural Talent
Behold how black skimmers fish for their finny food. As the tide falls and the moon rises, a squadron of skimmers shimmers over the glassy cove, shallow-plowing the shallows with their razor-thin lower mandibles, scooping up minnows by the many from the mini furrows. It’s a little like seeing with a string, and you have...
Image features: Quilt cover for a single bed. Red ground with design of stylized sunflowers and four groups of children engaged in reading, singing in a chorus with the red kerchiefs of the Young Pioneers, and dancing, some in ethnic costume. Please scroll down to read the blog post about this object.
Young Pioneers
The Young Pioneers of China, founded in 1949 as a Communist group for children aged six to fourteen, flies a red flag with a triangular cutout on its right edge. The group’s Constitution stipulates that members wear red scarves knotted around their necks to correspond with the flag’s missing section. This quilt cover depicts children...
Image features: Quilt cover for a single bed. Bright red ground is printed with dahlias that resemble the paper flowers that were awarded to workers. In the center is a yellow basket with tassels swinging and with three yellow-green mangoes. Behind the basket is the imperial ornamental pillar (huabiao) which is a symbol of political authority that stands in front of Tiananmen Gate. To the left is a drum, cymbals and a musical instrument called an erhu. Behind that motif is a building in which the mango possibly was exhibited. On the right is a bedroll and satchel with the Highest Directive sticking out. Colored balloons float above. Please scroll down to read the blog post about this object.
Gift Basket
This quilt cover features a tasseled basket containing three yellow-green mangoes that refer to the mangoes that Mao Zedong (1893-1976) gave to workers. As leader of China’s Communist Party, Mao received a basket of mangoes as a gift from the visiting Pakistani foreign minister in August 1968. Mao re-gifted the non-native delicacies to a group...
Image features: Bright green synthetic silk quilt cover with a monochrome damask design of a large torch resting on a mountain that represents Yan'an, the northern Shaanxi province town where Mao Zedong and followers regrouped at the end of the Long March. To the right of the torch are two blossoms (possibly hibiscus). The torch motif alternates with mountains topped by the Yan'an pagoda radiating a halo of light. Please scroll down to read the blog post about this object.
The Long March
In 1934, after seven years of civil war between China’s Nationalist and Communist parties, the latter was nearing defeat. Nationalist forces had repeatedly encircled Communist headquarters, and the recently elected Mao Zedong had been removed from his position as chairman. Under new leadership, the waning Communist army broke through its enemy’s fortifications in secret. Thus...
Model Citizens
This cotton quilt cover is based on The Legend of the Red Lantern, one of the Eight Model plays promoted during the Cultural Revolution in China, as they promoted the ideals of communism. (By the end of the Cultural Revolution, there were 18 approved plays and ballets.) The plot of The Legend of the Red...