The Beaded Universe

Strands of Culture

On View

Aug 24, 2004 - Sep 21, 2005

Curated By

Martha W. Longenecker

The exhibition was funded in part by the County of San Diego Community Enhancement Program

This was a world-encompassing, cross-cultural exhibition of man's oldest and smallest portable art form — the bead. The exhibition, which includes beads from some 40 cultures, was inspired by and based on The History of Beads by Lois Sherr Dubin. The concise edition of her book served as the catalogue.

Focusing on the finest examples of work from ancient to modern times, the exhibition offered an awareness of the extraordinary beauty of beads and the diversity of materials and techniques in beadwork. Beads reveal much about cultures by the many ways they have been used: as talismans in ancient and modern societies; as religious objects in the Buddhist, Christian and Islamic worlds; as symbols of affluence; and as a standard, cross-cultural medium of barter throughout the world.

A beaded globe, four feet in diameter, hung at the entrance to the exhibition. It was created by a family of Huichol Indians from the Mexican State of Jalisco in 1997 at Mingei International’s Balboa Park location. Also on view are ojime and netsuke from Japan, a collection of European beaded evening bags, and, a complete Ndebele bride’s costume from South Africa. Not to be missed were a grand Yoruba Chief’s robe, completely covered with beads, and three one-of-kind beaded garments by contemporary New York artist Sandra Rubel, one of which was decorated with sparkling images of the Empire State Building and World Trade Center.

Playing throughout the run of the exhibition was Mingei International’s film of the same name.