Selected from the Museum’s significant Pre-Columbian art collection, the works of art shown in this exhibition have rarely been displayed. The textiles range in date from around 100 BCE to 1450 CE and include pieces from six ancient Andean cultures. The technical virtuosity displayed in the weaving of these pieces is exceptional, and several weaving techniques are represented. Together, the textiles provide a glimpse of the fantastic inventiveness and artistic expressiveness of the weavers. The bright colors and bold patterns range from the simple to the complex; the forms vary from the naturalistic to the imaginative; and the artistic stylization moves among the geometric, zoomorphic and anthropomorphic.
Cloth held a very important role in the culture of ancient Peru and was an important signifier of social, political and religious information. While mainly used for clothing, textiles were placed in burials, dedicated as offerings and given as gifts. Cotton and wool were the primary materials. Unlike the coarse wool of the llama and soft wool of the alpaca, both of which came from domesticated animals, the finest wool of the vicuña had to be gathered from wild animals.
This exhibition also features commentary by the noted mixed-media artist Jo Stealey, Professor of Art at the University of Missouri. Having traveled and studied in Mexico and Guatemala, she brings her extensive artistic expertise to the exhibition commenting on various aspects of the pieces, revealing their relevance to today’s audiences, connecting past and present, and exploring the relevance of ancient art to contemporary artists.