The first floor gallery of the Human Ecology Building presents, on average, two exhibitions each year. These may be organized by faculty members, collection staff and interns, or graduate and undergraduate students. Exhibitions may be the result of research or a group effort organized as part of a specific class.
Due to the nature of our collection, each exhibition requires a fair amount of work. In addition to the research conducted to understand the artifacts, each piece needs to be examined for stability, and conservation treatment may be required in the case of fragile materials. Garments need to be dressed on three-dimensional forms that do not damage the pieces and have a proper stand for the period of the piece. Mannequins made for the display of historical garments are typically padded to the shape of the original wearer and thus require skill and knowledge to be presented properly. As textiles are extremely fragile, they must be presented under low light levels for a limited amount of time. Photographs are made of each mount, and this material can be presented as a virtual exhibition once the gallery is vacated.
Click to view or download our Access and Exhibition Policy (PDF).
The Re-Birth of Venus: Fashion & the Venus Kallipygos
May 3, 2013 to March 2, 2014
Co-curated by Anne Bissonnette, PhD, Sarah Nash, and Loretta Yau.
This exhibition is part of the course "Material Culture & Curatorship" (HECOL 668).
Opening reception on May 3, 2013, from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m.-- free and open to the public.
The exhibition explores the influence of art on fashion through the study of Venus Kallipygos, a statue from the National Archaeological Museum in Naples, Italy, and its pervasive influence on dress. Unlike other statues, this goddess exposes herself without a hint of modesty. The research investigates the artifact in terms of genre, production and cultural significance. We observe what this Venus is wearing and, as importantly, how it is worn and how it may have influenced late 18th century neoclassical fashion and late 19th and early 20th century dress behaviors.
In his book New Picture of Paris of 1800, Louis-Sébastien Mercier mentions how a wide range of Parisian fashionistas did their best to resemble the Venus “with the beautiful buttocks.” With her tunics raised high to expose her lower body, the statue’s popularity may have led to the hastening of the legs’ and derriere’s outline after centuries of abstraction under voluminous petticoats. The statue’s rendition of the tunic’s clingy pleated cloth belted below the bust also contributed to a paradigm shift where “natural” breasts free of corsetry became the new ideal.
The exhibition links fashion and Greco-Roman culture through elements of dress such as colors, silhouettes and use of fabrics as well as the corporeality of clothing through gestures and clothing construction.
A highlight of the exhibition, and unseen in Edmonton before, is a Fortuny “Delphos” gown on loan from a private lender in The Netherlands. Providing an example of a unique fabric process patented in 1909, this pleated silk gown mimicked one of Ancient Greece’s most popular statue, the Charioteer of Delphi. It creates what became an artistic tea gown that clung to the body and accentuates its curves. Also on exhibition is a bias-cut evening gown by designer and Edmonton native Michael Kaye, and a ca. 1808 white muslin gown with silver dots that will please Jane Austen fans. With permission from The Museum of London, the reproduction of a “merveilleuse” and “incroyable” fashion print from 1796 might shock contemporary viewers with its depiction of skin-tight attire. Fashion plates from 1798 to 1809 from the Journal des Dames et des Modes will also serve to illustrate the rise in popularity of the “natural” breasts and delineation of the buttocks that influence fashion to this day.
To be announced
PIONEER LADIES [of the evening]: A commemorative landscape for women on the margins in Western Canada, 1878-1916
September 13 to February 24, 2013
Dr. Laurie K. Bertram, Guest Curator and Grant Notley Memorial Postdoctoral Fellow
Opening in September 2012 at the University of Alberta’s Human Ecology Gallery, the exhibition Pioneer Ladies [of the evening] uses a blend of mug shots and textile artifacts to explore the contributions of women on the margins to Western Canadian history from 1878 to 1916. As part of a larger response to the deaths and disappearances of thousands of impoverished and criminalized women in Western Canada over the past 100 years, guest curator Dr. Laurie K. Bertram argues that we inherit a vibrant and challenging heritage when women on the margins occupy the centre of our historical attention.
Edmonton’s version of this conceptual exhibition features historic garments and quilts from the University of Alberta’s comprehensive collection to commemorate the lives of several women arrested for a variety of offenses in Western Canada, including “making obscene images,” “assisting fugitives,” and “the keeping of a bawdy house” (see Edna Floyd, 1904, Winnipeg Police Museum Archives). Also included in the exhibition is one of Edmonton’s earliest and most infamous madams, “Big Nelly” Webb, who was acquitted in the shooting of a Mountie in self-defense in 1888. Other mug shots reveal similarly fascinating historical chapters that challenge our perceptions of women and Canadian “pioneer” iconography.
This exhibition is made possible by the Department of Human Ecology’s Material Culture Institute with initial support from PLATFORM Gallery (Winnipeg) and Núnanow Iceland Canada Art Convergence.
EXHIBITION TOUR & PANEL DISCUSSION
"Marginalized Women: Challenging History and Contemporary Inaction"
February 6, 2013 from 7 to 8 p.m.
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Waste Not, Want Not: Creating Through Recycling
Curated by Lauren MacDonald, under the supervision of Dr. Arlene Oak and Vlada Blinova
September 7, 2011 to March 12, 2012
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In Mother’s Hood: Inuit Packing Dolls of Taloyoak
Anne Bissonnette, PhD and Christina Williamson, exhibition co-curators
September 9, 2010 to August 3, 2011
This exhibition is part of the Canadian Circumpolar Institute’s 50th anniversary celebrations.
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Anne Bissonnette, PhD, exhibition curator
October 1, 2009 to January 31, 2011