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Object Record

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Artist Schapiro, Miriam
Nationality or Tribal Affiliation American
Title Costume for Mother Earth II
Type of Object Monotype
Date 1995
Medium Monotype and painted fabric collage
Dimensions H-189 W-130 cm
Dimension Details Paper size is 193 x 139 cm.
Collection Missoula Art Museum Collection
How acquired Purchased with gifts to the Friends of Vera Memorial Fund, Fund-A-Dream 2001, private donations, and the Billie Blom Endowment
Object ID 2001.19
Statement about this object In an conversation with MAM Director Laura Millin in 2000, Schapiro said explained that in this work she sought to give form and identity to the abstract idea of "Mother Earth." She was unconsciously influenced by her own grandmother, a tall, bulky woman who walked through Russian forests with three children to escape communism and emigrate through Ellis Island in 1904. The Costume is a kind of armor, a house for the body, and an expression of human emotions, including desire. It represents qualities of noble character, stature, wisdom, and experience, and reminds us that reminds us that Mother Earth "would lead us in the right direction and that the Earth is to be preserved."

Schapiro created three Costume monoprints at Tandem Press; the other print was purchased by the Kresge Museum (now the Eli and Edythe Broad Art Museum) at Michigan State University, and Schapiro retained the third. Her process was to lay a loose, washy monoprint on the paper, adhere the fabrics, then apply the fabric paints.

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About Pattern & Decoration

By the mid-twentieth century, the adjective "decorative" was likely considered an insult to contemporary artists working in Western cultures. Decorative was used to describe art that included superfluous designs and techniques that interfered with what it was you were trying to look at. An artwork that was decorative wasn't really art.

Non-Western cultures do not share the view that decoration is trivial. Profound examples of patterning are found in historic and contemporary Islamic, African, and Byzantine art. Cultures from around the world have craft traditions, like quilting, which rely on strong patterns and designs. By the mid-1970s the Pattern and Decoration movement was born in the United States, initiated by artists who found inspiration in decorative artists from the East and West.

The P and D movement, as it is called, also started in reaction to more stringent doctrines of modernism, in particular to minimalism (which simplified art forms to their essential shapes and meanings). Even though many critics were fascinated with non-Western forms, Schapiro and other P and D artists were influenced further by the feminist concern for crafts traditionally made by women, such as quilts and blankets. The desire to raise the status of decoration in contemporary art circles resulted in a number of panel discussions and public presentations in 1975, and as the P and D artists exhibited more in New York City, the dialogue about the movement gained greater attention.

The P and D movement freed many artists to borrow and mix symbols and techniques from diverse traditions. Schapiro's "Costume for Mother Earth II" is an excellent example: the kimono shape is borrowed from Japanese culture, its patterning and color from Western fabric designs and surfaces and media from Schapiro's formal art training.

- Stephen Glueckert, Missoula Art Museum Curator Emeritus, for the 1999 exhibition "Miriam Schapiro: Works on Paper, A Thirty Year Retrospective"
Classification Pattern painting
Subjects Women
Earth
Symbols
Clothing & dress
Kimonos