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The Miao people, the largest of China’s ethnic minorities, trace
their history back 5,000 years to China’s Yellow River Valley. Their early
history tells of famine, wars, separations and migrations. Finally, they settled
in seven mountainous provinces where they lived, until recently, in relative
isolation. Spread among the mist shrouded mountains, the Miao developed a unique
and lively culture over the past two thousand years.
The Miao traditions include a distinct and an exceptional love of
embroidered textiles. Their minute stitching in brightly colored threads and
braids are sometimes highlighted with tassels and silver. The embroidery of each
piece tells a story that can be read by those who know how to interpret them.
For example, the Miao believe they are the descendants of birds and butterflies,
so these frequently appear in their embroideries.
Curated by Donald Wood, Ph.D., Chief Curator and Virginia &
William M. Spencer III Curator of Asian Art of the Birmingham Museum of Art, the pieces in the exhibition are drawn from the
collection of Susan Weitzman Conway, a long-time collector of textiles from the Miao. Her extensive
collection contains not only everyday men’s and women’s wear, but also
superb festival and ceremonial costumes. The collection also includes delicately
embroidered baby carriers and blankets, festival banners, hats, shoes, and a
variety of exquisitely worked silver jewelry. One of the most significant
holdings of such material in the United States, this is the first exhibition of
Ms. Conway’s collection.
Birmingham Museum of Art
the world. Discover yourself.
Birmingham Museum of Art, one of the finest regional museums in the United
States, houses a diverse collection of more than 25,000 paintings, sculpture,
prints, drawings and decorative arts dating from ancient to modern times. The
collection, based on the exceptional quality of each work, presents a rich
panorama of cultures featuring the museum’s extensive holdings of Asian,
European, American, African, Precolumbian and Native American art. Surrounded by
breath-taking works created by the masters of antiquity and icons of the art
world---Monet, Sargent, Corot, Cassatt, Bierstadt, Wedgwood, Motherwell, Stella,
Chihuly---museum visitors take part in a meaningful global discovery.
Museum Hours: Tuesday-Saturday 10am- 5pm; Sunday 12 – 5pm
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