"Wearing our Culture, Wearing Ourselves"

A collaborative, community-engaged learning project between the Waltham Family School, Engaged Anthropology (Anth 182b) and the Rose Art Museum

During Spring 2009, the Cultural Production program at Brandeis will partner with the Rose Art Museum and the adult students at the Waltham Family School (an EvenStart family literary program) to explore the relationships between clothing, society, imagination and the arts.

We will explore the following themes:

(A) All of us have a "social skin"--the way we dress and arrange our hair, etc sends important messages to society about who we are, where we come from, and who we want to be.
(B) Clothing helps us express our family memories, remembering parents and grandparents and many others
(C) Clothing and other changes in the surface of our bodies can help mark important social transitions in our lives. Examples: baptism, going to school for the first time, graduation, getting married. (Soldiers going to into basic training have their heads shaved; in some societies mourners tear their clothing, etc) (D) Clothing can also aspects of important holidays.
(E) Clothing can also express individual choice and individual freedom. We can choose to become a new person through our clothing and style choices. In North America, we have "the Culture of the Makeover." Does this idea exist in other societies?
(F) Clothing and Art. Artists sometimes explore all these themes --about being part of a society while also seeking individual freedom-- through art works about clothing. When we go to the Rose Art Museum we will see several works of painting and sculpture in which the artist explores her feelings about her life by creating imaginary kinds of clothing.
(G) Clothing and Children's Literature. Some children's books feature clothes, garments, hair or other ornaments worn on the body. How do clothes help children and young people imagine new possibilities for themselves? Why kinds of stories for children involving clothing might you write or tell for your children?

Please share other thoughts about clothing, society and the imagination, by posting in the Discussion section above.

Brandeis students will work with the WFS students to create a booklet of memories and ideas about the meaning of important articles of clothing in our lives. The book may also feature illustrated short stories for children, written by WFS adult students, incorporating images of clothing.

The WFS and Brandeis students will also do some sort of public presentation of their shared research and reflections later in the spring.

Study Tour of the Rose Art Museum (Tuesday, March 17 from 9:15-10:45 a.m.)

Art works to discuss include:

Chie Fueki's The Nature of how we see. (on display as part of the Master of Reality exhibition, Lee Gallery). The artist, who not allowed to play football (soccer) as a girl growing up in Brazil, created this imaginary football uniform incorporating the symbolism of a superhero. How can real or imagined clothing help us think about becoming a new person?

Yayoi Kusama, Blue Coat, 1965, cloth stuffed on wire, Rose Art Museum, Brandeis University, MA, Gift of Louis Schapiro. In this work, the artist confronts her own struggles with hallucinations and mental illness. Why might she have chosen to face these challenges through the image of a dress or coat on a hanger? How might we understand the protrusions extending out of the garment? When can clothing, or art more generally, help to heal a person who is suffering or troubled?

Florine Stettheimer, Music (1920) Why has artist chosen to dress the three women in this work in this particular manner?

Drawing about Clothing.

Please draw or write something on one or more of the following themes:
  • Clothing that reminds you of your home country
  • Clothing that reminds of somebody special
  • Clothing that reminds you of an important event in your life. (Happy or Sad).
  • Clothing that you would like to wear, just for yourself.
  • Clothing that your children like to wear?
  • Clothing that your children shouldn’t wear?
  • Imaginary clothing--- for example, a Superwoman’s uniform (like Chie Fueki's painitng)
  • A story for children about clothing.