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Indepth Arts News:

"Woman: Mother, Muse, Goddess"
2000-04-08 until 2000-09-17
Phoenix Art Museum
Phoenix, , USA United States of America

If you close your eyes and think about images of women over centuries, three basic ideals recur—mother, muse or sexual being, and goddess. Our culture has been deeply influenced by these images of woman. For centuries, clothing has been the physical embodiment, reflection and progenitor of these female archetypes. Fashion design has evolved as the images have evolved; and, in turn, the fashions have influenced the image. Through every period, they have merged to represent the ideal woman of the times. In Woman: Mother, Muse, Goddess, Phoenix Art Museum explores, through the clothing from the last two centuries, the repetitions, transformations, and the overlapping nature of these images – as societal roles and as icons.

The exhibition, organized by the Museum’s new Fashion Design curator, Dennita Sewell, will be on view at Phoenix Art Museum, April 8 – September 17, 2000, in the Fashion Design Gallery. The exhibition is generously sponsored by the Mrs. John W. Kieckhefer Memorial Fund and the Novis M. Schmitz Foundation.

By selecting some of the images in the categories of mother, muse and goddess, and pairing them with the clothing akin to these ideals, the exhibition reflects on the history of women’s identities. As mother, the garments represent childbearing, nurturing, a mother’s work and emotions – such as an 1860s maternity dress, a late 19th century apron, a 1950s shirtwaist dress and an 1860s mourning dress. As muse, the clothing exudes the influences of woman as sexual being – such as an evening dress designed by Bob Mackie in 1989 and a chemise, corset and petticoat from 1900. As goddess, woman occupies a sphere of power, strength and influence, from an evening gown fit for the Hollywood movie star to a silk and satin wedding dress; from a pant suit designed by Yves Saint Laurent in 1967 to a uniform worn by the Army’s first female three-star general, Claudia J. Kennedy; from a silk shantung suit designed in 1960 by English designer Norman Hartnell to a World War II era American Red Cross hospital and camp services uniform.

What elements make the image of motherNULL The apron; the soft, full skirt; the front closure; practical, sturdy fabric. Her elements contrast with the muse's clinging fabrics, revealing cuts, and tactile surfaces. Goddess in her role of Ideal Woman belongs to all the world as a living symbol of the loftiest visions of eternal hope. She arouses adoration. All of the images in the exhibition provide information about how women were viewed within their society and how roles and ideals have transformed.

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