Your Favorite Things: Emma Kessler and a Māori Weaving Peg

maori-weaving-peg
Unknown Maori artist, New Zealand. Weaving Peg. Wood and haliotis shell. Raymond and Laura Wielgus Collection, Eskenazi Museum of Art, Indiana University, 2010.21

Your Favorite Things is a regular feature on our blog where students, staff, and patrons of the museum talk about their favorite objects in the museum’s collection. Today Emma Kessler, curatorial assistant for the Arts of Africa, Oceania, and the Americas discusses her favorite object, a Māori Weaving Pin.

Since I was a kid I’ve always loved museums. I love learning about other cultures through the objects they’ve created.

I first visited the Sidney and Lois Eskenazi Museum of Art at Indiana University on a campus visit while trying to decide where I wanted to attend graduate school. It is safe to say I was impressed with the collection and I was blown away by the objects in the Raymond and Laura Wielgus Gallery of the Art of Africa, Oceania, and the Americas.

To be upfront, my graduate focus is on the art of Polynesia, and I happily admit that my opinions are completely biased, but as far as I am concerned the Polynesian collection is the best in the museum.

My favorite object is a beautiful and unfinished Māori Weaving Peg from Aotearoa (New Zealand). I go back to this object over and over again. I never walk past it without stopping at least for a moment, and if I have a visitor with me I always point it out. Among the Māori, weaving was historically a sacred act carried out by women, and there was great care, attention, and power put into the necessary tools.

emma-portrait
Emma Kessler

I love the history and unique qualities of this object. While it is certainly not the only example of a carved weaving peg, it is one of the most elaborate. The crispness of the carving is the result of metal tools that had only been introduced relatively recently when the weaving peg was created in the 18th century. Its use of interlocking figures, a characteristic of Māori carving, means there is always something new to see and more to look at. I never get bored when spending time with this object.

However, my favorite thing about this weaving peg is the fact that it is unfinished. In a purely visual way, this allows one to see and get a better understanding of how the peg was made. The figures at the bottom have been roughly outlined but are nowhere near the completed intricacy of the figures above them. Through a cultural lens this unfinished quality becomes even more interesting. Every part of the carving process included chants and prayers, imbuing the object with mana, or sacred power, and creating an intense connection between the object and the carver. When the peg’s carver was unable to finish it (perhaps because of illness or death) another carver would not be able to complete it, as the continuity of the ritual had been broken.

Because of objects and histories like this one, the Raymond and Laura Wielgus Gallery has become my favorite space on the IU campus. For me, it is a place to think, reflect, learn, and enjoy.

If you would like to tell us about your favorite object in the museum’s collection contact us at iuam@indiana.edu

Eskenazi Museum of Art Website

 

From Paris to Polynesia: Paul Gauguin at the IU Art Museum

Paul Gauguin, The Invocation, French, 1848 - 1903, 1903, oil on canvas, Gift from the Collection of John and Louise Booth in memory of their daughter Winkie

Image: Paul Gauguin (French, 1848 – 1903). The Invocation, 1903. Oil on canvas. National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C., gift from the collection of John and Louise Booth in memory of their daughter Winkie, 1976.63.1

The IU Art Museum is pleased to announce that it will display a painting by French artist Paul Gauguin (1848‒1903) during the 2015‒16 academic year. The painting, entitled The Invocation, 1903, is on loan from the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. The work is being loaned in exchange for the IU Art Museum’s painting The Yerres, Effect of Rain by impressionist Gustave Caillebotte (1848‒1894) which will appear in the National Gallery’s exhibition Gustave Caillebotte: The Painter’s Eye.

The Invocation will be featured in a special installation in the IU Art Museum’s Gallery of the Art of the Western World. The installation, From Paris to Polynesia: Paul Gauguin at the IU Art Museum, opens October 1, 2015. Three prints by Gauguin, drawn from the museum’s permanent collection, will also be on view.

Considered one of the most important French artists of the 19th century, Paul Gauguin was a leading member of the Symbolism movement, which rejected realism in favor of spiritual and dreamlike imagery. Gauguin developed a style characterized by pure, flat color, simplified forms, and spiritual subject matter.

Gauguin spent most of the 1890s in Tahiti, where he incorporated Polynesian imagery and spiritual allusions into his work. Disappointed that Tahitian traditional culture had been largely destroyed by European colonialism, Gauguin moved to the more remote Marquesas Islands in 1901, where he died less than two years later. One of his final works, The Invocation, alludes to the displacement of traditional Polynesian beliefs by Christianity. The painting depicts a nude female figure standing before a verdant landscape with her arms stretched upwards. Her pose of prayer or invocation contrasts with the figure behind her, who wears the long, loose dress introduced to Polynesia by Christian missionaries, and with the small Catholic church visible in the background.

In conjunction with the loan, the Gauguin biopic, The Wolf at the Door, is scheduled to be shown at the IU Cinema on January 10, 2016. Plans are also underway for additional programming to take place during the spring semester. Please check the museum’s website, www.artmuseum.iu.edu, for additional information.