COURSES TAUGHT

Drawing on a growing body of textile scholarship in the last twenty years, Deborah Valoma has developed a comprehensive series of graduate and undergraduate courses on textile history and theory. These are taught through multiple lenses including colonialism and industrialism; cultural reclamation and indigenization movements; cultural appropriation and notions of so-called authenticity; and gendered and racialized hierarchies of aesthetic value in contemporary art. These courses introduce students to the theoretical discourses in the field of textiles and provide them with the intellectual tools to navigate the historical terrain they walk through daily.

Constructing Identity: Textiles, Indigeneity, and Resistance

As indigenous communities contend with the continuing social and economic consequences of nineteenth-century colonization and navigate current global production schemes, textile traditions have changed from forms of physical survival, artistic expression, and spiritual intervention to vehicles for constructing identity and preserving culture. This course examines historical and contemporary textile practices of adaptation and resistance, such as African printed cloth, the basketry tradition of native California, and Gandhi’s use of hand-spun cloth in the fight for Indian independence. Readings and lectures highlight the perseverance of traditional artists and cultural continuity, appropriation and shifting definitions of "authenticity," and the social and political role of textiles in indigenous culture reclamation movements.

Textile Biographies: Trade, Appropriation, and Hybridization

Uniquely portable, textiles were first transported along the ancient silk roads and later via sea routes opened by European trading companies in the 16th century. How were textiles transformed through the movement of people, the exchange of ideas, the transfer of techniques and materials, and the shifting modes of production? Using the investigative strategy “object biography,” this course investigates trade, colonization, appropriation, hybridization, and the shifting meaning of material culture. Topics include the influence of Japanese textiles on European art and product design, the trajectory of African printed cloth from Indonesian batik to Afro-Brazilian carnaval costumes, and the modernization of material and technology that led to the use of Hawaiian print as a signifier of exoticized island narratives.

Women’s Work: Textiles, Gender, and Hierarchy

Thread work has come to be uniquely associated with notions of femininity. What accounts for this correlation and how has it influenced the historical understanding of weaving, quilting, crocheting, knitting, embroidering, and lace making? This course examines the textile arts from prehistoric to contemporary--with a special focus on gender ideologies, modes of production, and the shifting status of textiles within Western hierarchies of value. Topics include the role of spinning in Greek sexual politics, tapestry weaving and its aesthetic influence, embroidery and the creation of the feminine, the role of textile production in the Industrial Revolution, the power of European American and African American quilts in women’s political expression, the reclamation of hand processes in the Arts and Crafts movement, the gendered politics of the Bauhaus, and the feminist underpinnings of the 20th century fiber art movement.

Fashioning the Body: Appropriation and Cultural Cross-Dressing

For millennia, humans have loudly proclaimed or cleverly disguised personal identities, defended and transgressed binary definitions, and constructed and deconstructed the social body through clothing. This course investigates these sartorial strategies, with particular focus on the practices of appropriation and cross-racial, cross-cultural, and cross-gender dressing as expressions of colonial and gender ideologies. From the Victorian period to contemporary fashion, subjects include the culture-wars of the Islamic veil, Polynesian tattooing as an expression of the marginalized other, “playing Indian” in the construction of American identity, fashion’s “black face” as an expression of colonial ideology, and androgyny in the twenty-first century fashion industry.

Thinking Textiles

Textile metaphors abound; we speak of the "world wide web," "spinning a tale," a "thread of discourse," and a "network of ideas." The definition of textile art, once securely bound to utility, has given way to a practice based loosely on a constellation of material, technique, and concept. Textile structures pose distinctive physical possibilities and limitations, but more importantly foster cognitive processes and suggest abstract meanings. Building through the interplay of threads and multiple intersection points is inherently a time-consuming and additive process. It builds a cohesive whole from disparate, equal elements. This arrangement offers a blueprint for thinking about interconnectivity and nonhierarchical structures in linguistic, social, and interpersonal arenas. This seminar is designed for students working in any discipline who are interested in investigating textile sensibilities such as touch, eroticism, staining, domesticity, and mourning through readings, discussions, written assignments, and critiques.

Chromophilia

Chromophilia, n. The property possessed by cells of staining readily with dyes. The title of this course is derived from a chapter in David Batchelor's book, Chromophobia. The author eloquently traces concepts of color in nineteenth and twentieth-century Western art and literature as they relate to notions of purity and contamination. This course analyzes how color is folded into a complex set of Western cultural narratives and how the so-called neutrality of "whiteness" in the museum setting is constructed on racist and gendered stereotypes. Through readings, discussions, and assignments, students investigate the diverse meanings of color in different cultural landscapes. Texts are selected from multiple disciplines including anthropology, art criticism, art history, and fashion theory.

For-Site: Loss for Words

With the fall season as our backdrop, we will pause for a moment to consider the Sierra Nevada landscape as a witness to personal and cultural narratives of loss. Locating historical and traditional practices as gestures of resistance and continuity, we will concern ourselves with mortality, ephemerality, stillness, and solitude. In the "aesthetic of silence," so eloquently described by Susan Sontag, we will consider how things speak without speaking, acquire meaning as they dissipate, and assert their presence in absence. Attending to multiple histories, we will work with prominent Native American basket weavers Julia and Lucy Parker and walk the terrain of Gold Rush cemeteries in memory of forgotten people, those seemingly lost, or perhaps never known at all.

Image Collections

For generations, weavers have experimented with the unique graphic potential of building by units within the framework of a grid. In the Grammar of Ornament (originally publishedin 1856), nineteenth-century architect and designer Own Jones hypothesizes that weaving played a central role in the cognitive development of humans and shaped the "first notions of symmetry." These mathematical structures simultaneously shaped structure and materialized on the surface as flat pattern--each a visual code of how the threads were assembled. Fiber construction developed into more than a technology; it became the fertile matrix for an entire aesthetic tradition--the geometric aesthetic, the indigenous language of textiles. 

Courses

COURSES TAUGHT

Drawing on a growing body of textile scholarship in the last twenty years, Deborah Valoma has developed a comprehensive series of graduate and undergraduate courses on textile history and theory. These are taught through multiple lenses including colonialism and industrialism; cultural reclamation and indigenization movements; cultural appropriation and notions of so-called authenticity; and gendered and racialized hierarchies of aesthetic value in contemporary art. These courses introduce students to the theoretical discourses in the field of textiles and provide them with the intellectual tools to navigate the historical terrain they walk through daily.

Constructing Identity: Textiles, Indigeneity, and Resistance

As indigenous communities contend with the continuing social and economic consequences of nineteenth-century colonization and navigate current global production schemes, textile traditions have changed from forms of physical survival, artistic expression, and spiritual intervention to vehicles for constructing identity and preserving culture. This course examines historical and contemporary textile practices of adaptation and resistance, such as African printed cloth, the basketry tradition of native California, and Gandhi’s use of hand-spun cloth in the fight for Indian independence. Readings and lectures highlight the perseverance of traditional artists and cultural continuity, appropriation and shifting definitions of "authenticity," and the social and political role of textiles in indigenous culture reclamation movements.

Textile Biographies: Trade, Appropriation, and Hybridization

Uniquely portable, textiles were first transported along the ancient silk roads and later via sea routes opened by European trading companies in the 16th century. How were textiles transformed through the movement of people, the exchange of ideas, the transfer of techniques and materials, and the shifting modes of production? Using the investigative strategy “object biography,” this course investigates trade, colonization, appropriation, hybridization, and the shifting meaning of material culture. Topics include the influence of Japanese textiles on European art and product design, the trajectory of African printed cloth from Indonesian batik to Afro-Brazilian carnaval costumes, and the modernization of material and technology that led to the use of Hawaiian print as a signifier of exoticized island narratives.

Women’s Work: Textiles, Gender, and Hierarchy

Thread work has come to be uniquely associated with notions of femininity. What accounts for this correlation and how has it influenced the historical understanding of weaving, quilting, crocheting, knitting, embroidering, and lace making? This course examines the textile arts from prehistoric to contemporary--with a special focus on gender ideologies, modes of production, and the shifting status of textiles within Western hierarchies of value. Topics include the role of spinning in Greek sexual politics, tapestry weaving and its aesthetic influence, embroidery and the creation of the feminine, the role of textile production in the Industrial Revolution, the power of European American and African American quilts in women’s political expression, the reclamation of hand processes in the Arts and Crafts movement, the gendered politics of the Bauhaus, and the feminist underpinnings of the 20th century fiber art movement.

Fashioning the Body: Appropriation and Cultural Cross-Dressing

For millennia, humans have loudly proclaimed or cleverly disguised personal identities, defended and transgressed binary definitions, and constructed and deconstructed the social body through clothing. This course investigates these sartorial strategies, with particular focus on the practices of appropriation and cross-racial, cross-cultural, and cross-gender dressing as expressions of colonial and gender ideologies. From the Victorian period to contemporary fashion, subjects include the culture-wars of the Islamic veil, Polynesian tattooing as an expression of the marginalized other, “playing Indian” in the construction of American identity, fashion’s “black face” as an expression of colonial ideology, and androgyny in the twenty-first century fashion industry.

Thinking Textiles

Textile metaphors abound; we speak of the "world wide web," "spinning a tale," a "thread of discourse," and a "network of ideas." The definition of textile art, once securely bound to utility, has given way to a practice based loosely on a constellation of material, technique, and concept. Textile structures pose distinctive physical possibilities and limitations, but more importantly foster cognitive processes and suggest abstract meanings. Building through the interplay of threads and multiple intersection points is inherently a time-consuming and additive process. It builds a cohesive whole from disparate, equal elements. This arrangement offers a blueprint for thinking about interconnectivity and nonhierarchical structures in linguistic, social, and interpersonal arenas. This seminar is designed for students working in any discipline who are interested in investigating textile sensibilities such as touch, eroticism, staining, domesticity, and mourning through readings, discussions, written assignments, and critiques.

Chromophilia

Chromophilia, n. The property possessed by cells of staining readily with dyes. The title of this course is derived from a chapter in David Batchelor's book, Chromophobia. The author eloquently traces concepts of color in nineteenth and twentieth-century Western art and literature as they relate to notions of purity and contamination. This course analyzes how color is folded into a complex set of Western cultural narratives and how the so-called neutrality of "whiteness" in the museum setting is constructed on racist and gendered stereotypes. Through readings, discussions, and assignments, students investigate the diverse meanings of color in different cultural landscapes. Texts are selected from multiple disciplines including anthropology, art criticism, art history, and fashion theory.

For-Site: Loss for Words

With the fall season as our backdrop, we will pause for a moment to consider the Sierra Nevada landscape as a witness to personal and cultural narratives of loss. Locating historical and traditional practices as gestures of resistance and continuity, we will concern ourselves with mortality, ephemerality, stillness, and solitude. In the "aesthetic of silence," so eloquently described by Susan Sontag, we will consider how things speak without speaking, acquire meaning as they dissipate, and assert their presence in absence. Attending to multiple histories, we will work with prominent Native American basket weavers Julia and Lucy Parker and walk the terrain of Gold Rush cemeteries in memory of forgotten people, those seemingly lost, or perhaps never known at all.