This coming weekend marks the opening of “Woven Arts of the Andes: The Fabric of a Culture.”
This amazing art perspective clearly portrays the integral connection between the people of the Andes, the llama and the ancient methods of preparing, dyeing and weaving textiles. Central Sierra Arts Council is grateful for a chance to offer our locals and visitors a rare glimpse into one of the world’s oldest folk traditions: The weavings of the Quechuan people of the Andes. The methods of these traditional folk arts have survived for thousands of years, dating back as far as 3,000 BCE.
“The rich, vibrant colors of the dyed wools give the Quechuan weavings their distinct signature,” commented Laurie Livingston, one of the chairpeople for this exhibit. “One of my favorite discoveries has been the use of Cochineal beetle to create the brilliant reds in their textiles!” This beetle is a parasite, often found on Prickly Pear cacti. Traditionally the beetles are gathered by hand, and then processed to extract a rich crimson coloration that is widely used in textile arts and in fine art. “Of course, the Quehcuan weavers use many other plants for dyeing the llamas’ wool,” Livingston adds.
Inspired by the work and travels of George Caldwell and his wife Christine Dunham, the exhibition committee is creating a dynamic, interactive experience. Along with a gala reception to be held THIS weekend on Saturday, July 28th from 5PM to 7PM, this special exhibition will also involve weaving and spinning demonstrations by The Motherlode Weaving and Spinning Guild, guest lectures by Caldwell, and presentations by photographer and art professor, Laurie Sylwester. In addition, CSAC will offer performances of Peruvian folk tales by storyteller B.Z. Smith.
At the heart of this exhibition’s story are two prevailing themes:
Number One…What can Americans do to impact Peruvian culture in our harsh modern world? As contemporary society encroaches on centuries’ old traditions, long-held practices and manual techniques give way to “progress.” According to Caldwell, it is the llamas who suffer greatly. As the Quechuan lose their traditions and rituals, their spiritual reverence for the llama erodes and slips away. The results are disastrous as thousands of the adorable camelid are slaughtered for food. Caldwell hopes that his efforts to enlighten Americans on this story will spur keen interest in restoring the llama to its rightful role as a cultural icon, an ethereal spirit that connects two completely different worlds.
Number Two…Through these traditional weavings, we are able to grasp the deep connection that lets us feel and see the very threads that unite us as a People. As visitors come to the exhibition they will be able to feel the rich history of this work. The very threads that bind us to one another will come into sharp focus. We will learn about the simple processes, not primitive at all, but skilled. We will then realize how these Andean weavings echo the Mexican, Southwestern and Asian textiles. We will become aware that many of the techniques and processes are cross-global; one ancient culture using the same methods as another that is more than 6000 miles and hundreds of years apart.
While George and Christine have certainly been the heartbeat of this new CSAC show, there is a person who has become key to its success: Laurie Livingston. Oh, Laurie will be the first to tell you that there are lots of folks working on this show. But we want to extend both a thank you and a warm welcome! Laurie moved to Tuolumne County barely a year ago. To help her get to know people, to find a way to make a genuine contribution to her new home, she volunteered to help out at CSAC. In no time she was appointed to the CSAC Board of Directors where she has taken on considerable layer of responsibility. A graphics designer, artist and writer, Laurie arrived with all the perquisites of being able to make an impact. So, from Los Angeles and the hub-bub of the urban pace, Laurie has found that life in rural California can be pretty busy, too. Everyone at CSAC is eternally grateful for her intelligence, enthusiasm, her vast knowledge and her kind nature. Thanks for letting us get to know you, Laurie! You readers, come on out for the reception on Saturday night to enjoy this beautiful show, exquisitely hung by Laurie, LuAnn Tillman and another graphics design treasure, John Lytle. While you’re there, seek her out and give Laurie your own “HillPeople Welcome.”