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Women Designers in the USA, 1900-2000
Diversity and Divergence

The exhibition Women Designers in the USA, 1900-2000: Diversity and Difference will open in the new exhibition galleries of the Bard Graduate Center for Studies in the Decorative Arts on November 15, 2000 and runs through February 25, 2001. The exhibition will be accompanied by a book of scholarly essays, written by experts in the history of design, gender, and culture, and will be published by Yale University Press in association with the Bard Graduate Center.

The BCG decided to mark the year 2000, and its seventh year as a specialized center for the study of the decorative arts, design and culture, by undertaking a research project about women designers working in the United States during the years 1900-2000 – a century labeled by some "The American Century," by others "The Women's Century." Ambitious in scope, the project aims to survey all fields of design, not just those currently fashionable, and to give full voice to the experiences and achievements of women of diverse ethnicities, including African-American and Native American, as well as European-American designers.

By setting women in the foreground, the project intends to counter their marginalization within the history of design and the decorative arts. The broad scope of the project allows for comparisons between the different areas of design; it also signals the BCG's commitment to give equal consideration to all aspects of design – from ceramics to cinema, from furniture to fashion, from interiors to industrial products, and from gardens to graphics.

Project director Dr. Pat Kirkham, a senior faculty member at the BCG, is a distinguished international scholar who has written widely on design, film, gender, and culture. The exhibition and book are the result of ground-breaking research on which BGC students, past and present have worked with Dr. Kirkham. Together with a special issue of the Bard Graduate Center journal, Studies in the Decorative Arts, devoted to the same topic, the book and exhibition will constitute a major revision and augmentation of the history of women designers in the United States in the twentieth century.

The exhibition will feature approximately 220 items (one per designer) – primarily objects but also designs and film extracts –by women working from the earliest years of the century through the year 2000. It will be the first time that examples from the whole range of women's multifarious contributions to this rich aspect of American material culture have been brought together. Culled from a wide variety of private and public collections, the exhibition celebrates and showcases the achievements of women designers.

The items in the exhibition vary from wallpaper, garden, book, poster, pottery, textile, and jewelry designs of the 1900s and the 1910s to a scintillating outfit worn by Miss Piggy of the Muppets (designed by Polly smith) and Timex's latest watch for women athletes (designed by Judith Reichel Riley with Kirsti Karpawich and Susie Watson).

Famous designers – Ruth Reeves, Adelaide Robeineau, Eva Ziesel, Nampeyo, Maira Martinez, Ray Eames, Florence Knoll, Edith Head, Dorthy Liebes, Clare McCardell, Bonnie Cashin, Lella Vignelli, Elsa Peretti, Donna Karan, Maya Lin will be represented, but attention will also be paid to less well-known women such as Agnes Northrop, Natacha Rambova, Nancy McClelland, Jayne Van Alstyne, Lucia DeRespinis, Ann Lowe, Dorthy Jeakins, Nancy Youngblood Lugo, Anna Rachel Russell Jones, and Ruth Carter.

The exhibition will open with a contextual section, including a timeline placing women's design history within a wider social and cultural context and an image bank indicating the diversity of articles designed by women during the century. Thereafter the exhibition is organized on a broadly chronological basis, to give visitors a sense of change, and according to five main themes: "Survivals," "Revivals," "Traditions," and Change (circa 1900-1935); Designing Modernities (circa 1915-50); Designing the American Dream (circa 1950-80); "Revivals" and Redefinitions (circa 1975-1990); and 1990-2000 and Beyond. We have a whole new look with a new logo. Our approach is going to be internet oriented, promoting our members through our website. We'd like to include you. This will be a great forum for people to see what you've been doing. We'd appreciate it if you'd get in touch with us as soon as possible so we can include you.

kirkham publication

Women Designers in teh USA, 1900-2000
Diversity and Divergence

Click here to purchase the book