Acadian Brown Cotton: The Fabric of Acadiana
Sep 12, 2020 — Jun 30, 2021
This landmark exhibition celebrates and commemorates a vibrant 250 year tradition. Acadian brown cotton blankets were taken for granted by past generations; today they are cherished for their artistic merit and cultural importance, as documented in the film “Coton jaune – Acadian Brown Cotton – A Cajun Love Story.” This exhibition is the most comprehensive project to date dedicated to the cultural traditions associated with the farming and weaving of brown cotton in Acadiana. Additionally, it would be shortsighted not to acknowledge the excellence of L’Amour de Maman: The Acadian Textile Heritage for its influence on the study of brown cotton. This important exhibition was the first on view at the Louisiana State Museum in 1983 and later toured extensively in Canada. L’Amour de Maman served as a North Star to the curatorial team and informed which elements of the weaving tradition warranted further research.
Acadian Brown Cotton: The Fabric of Acadiana is much like the blankets on view in that it is composed of many threads. The exhibition consists of six sections that, taken as a whole, represents an ambitious synthesis of folklore, anthropology, economics, and art history. A Mother’s Love, the first section, describes how weaving practices passed largely from mother to daughter and features genealogical analyses that illustrate, in a general sense, how weaving as a cultural tradition idiom in Acadiana tended to spread geographically. The following two sections, Cleaning to Weaving and Acadian Homestead, deal with the weaving process and home furnishings that were coming in Acadian households before the mid-twentieth century. Revitalizations, the fourth section, explores how economic conditions in Acadiana played an important role in the revitalization of brown cotton weaving over the last 150 years. The next section is an interesting follow-up for the fourth in that it looks closely at the current wave of Acadian brown cotton revitalization as an economic and cultural force. Specifically, the emphasis on the community-organizing activities of the organization Field to Fashion in Acadiana, and they emphasis on sustainability and economic empowerment. This vibrant current initiative provides a fascinating opportunity to witness history actively being written in the context of Acadian brown cotton’s larger story.
The final section addresses Acadian brown cotton weaving as Visual Culture. Concepts of artistic intention, symbolism, art as commodity, and the difficulty of navigating between classifications such as craft, decorative art, and fine art are discussed within the context of Acadian brown cotton blankets. Master spinner and weaver Elaine Larcade Bourque, as well as Austin Clark, Leah Graeff, Ben Koch, Lena Kolb, LeChaun Moore, and Francis Pavy are artists whose work is on view. Their creations illustrate how weaving traditions can or have become more symbolically important than subsistence practitioners ever thought possible.
Support for this exhibition comes from the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities. Acadian Brown Cotton: The Fabric of Acadiana would not be possible if it were not for the hard work of our curatorial team: Elaine Larcade Bourque, Dr. C. Ray Brassieur, Sharon Gordon Donnan, Wendy Raffel, Deb Waldman, and Benjamin M. Hickey. Thank you to Susie Gottardi, Ian Gregory-Graff, Jolie Johnson, Olivia Morgan, Chris Pavlik, Misty Taylor, Jenny Robertson, Callie Smith, and other Hilliard Art Museum staff who made this exhibition possible. Thank you to Field to Fashion in Acadiana and Acadiana Food Hub for their collective work on this project.