It’s No Basket Case: This Exhibition Wants to Show You a New History of Weaving

Rooted, Revived, Reinvented: Basketry in America at the Houston Center for Contemporary Craft chronicles the history of baskets in the U.S., from their humble origins to contemporary art status.
Basketry America exhibition

Lois Russell, Magic Bus, 2012. Waxed Linen. Courtesy Joe Johnson


As implements for work, storage, and ritual, baskets have long proved useful, but most people don’t think about their historical and cultural significance. Rooted, Revived, Reinvented: Basketry in America, a traveling exhibition open at the Houston Center for Contemporary Craft through September 2, attempts to change that perception by celebrating their role in America’s cultural heritage.

Organized in partnership with the National Basketry Organization and the University of Missouri, the show chronicles the history of baskets in the United States, from their humble origins to their elevation to contemporary art pieces. The exhibition presents nearly 100 objects, including early examples crafted by Native Americans, immigrants, and slaves that cocurator Jo Stealey says give visitors “a bird’s-eye view of historic baskets.” The more contemporary specimens on display are infused with color and take unexpected, decidedly unorthodox forms; many, like a Pop Art–inspired teapot and even a pair of high-heeled shoes, cease to be baskets. In an inspired move, the curators also showcase the eclectic materials used to make the various designs—from cedar bark and orange peels to staples and metal tines from a street sweeper.

Stealey believes the tactile quality of the baskets has resonated with visitors. In a world of mass-produced goods and technological overload, she notes, a newfound appreciation for these handcrafted objects has emerged. “It’s such a sensual exhibition,” she says. “You look at the objects and want to touch them.”

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Categories: Arts + Culture, Makers

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