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College of Human Ecology

Manhattan Arts Center exhibition includes mantles from K-State historic costume and textile museum's permanent collection

Monday, April 7, 2008

MANHATTAN -- Some of the exotic robes vibrate in action-packed rugged reds and startling blacks. Others, in calm pastels, signify peace, well-being and maturity.

Each intricately crafted creation is more message than wearable art.

Each, according to artist Anita Luvera Mayer, symbolizes an aspect of women's lives. "They honor who we are and who we have become," she said.

"Mantles for Women: Rites of Passages" is on display at the Manhattan Arts Center, 1520 Poyntz Ave., through April 27. Many of the mantles are part of the permanent collection of the Historic Costume and Textile Museum at Kansas State University, a gift from the artist. Others, sent especially for the exhibition, represent Mayer's recent work. They will be in the Main Gallery of the center.

Mayer borrows from history; some mantles feature the Celtic knot. In the Middle Ages, the knot was believed to be a form of art women used to magically control weather, birth, death and fate.

Mayer also borrows from cultures that have rich traditions to mark the transition from one stage of life to another. Original inspiration came from the Kalabari of Nigeria who dress in richly woven fabric and centuries-old symbols for occasions of rites of passage relating to birth and death. Small pearls, for example, represent tears of joy and sorrow. Butterflies embody motherhood, soul, immortality, rebirth, resurrection and longevity.

With color, texture, stitchery and surprise details for each mantle, Mayer creates symbolic portraits of stages such as birth, marriage, motherhood and matriarch. Each is the same reversible style and features piecework, beading, embroidery and handwoven fabric.

"Each mantle is unique and absolutely stunning," said Marla Day, curator for the Historic Costume and Textile Museum in K-State's College of Human Ecology. "An explosion of color and texture dazzles the senses and stirs the soul as you explore Anita's designs and relate to her thought-provoking message."

For "Earth Goddess" the artist used rich colors that "seemed to speak of the richness of the soil. The patterns symbolize the tilled soils and the meandering pathways of our journey," Mayer said.

"Sacred Silences" pays tribute to women who have no voice for fear of reprisal.

On slivers of fabric sewn to "Wailing Wall for Women," Mayer has written current newspaper headlines depicting the dilemma of women in today's society.

"I found myself becoming immune to the daily barrage of stories about death and destruction, the loss of homes, families and self-respect," the artist said. "I hope the viewer might again realize the plight of many women today."

Mayer, added Day, "transforms fiber into sculpture and elevates clothing to an artistic communication between cultures and generations."

Mayer named another robe in the exhibit "Guardian of the Spirit." The inside features values of black "to remember dark days" with a cording of color and beads to symbolize hope.

"Who we are is made up of all the bits and pieces of our experiences from our times of joy to our moments of sadness and we too become a whole cloth," Mayer said.

Source: Marla Day, 785-532-1328, mday@k-state.edu
Photos available. Contact media@k-state.edu or 785-532-6415.
Podcast available:
http://www.k-state.edu/media/audio/podcasts/podcastmuseum1.mov
News release prepared by: Jane Marshall, 785-532-1519, jpm2@k-state.edu

This article was posted on Monday, April 7, 2008, and is filed under Apparel, Textiles, & Interior Design, College News.