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Through May 3
Hawaiian textiles exhibit open at WSU Museum
Tuesday, Mar. 29, 2011
By Brian Clark, College of Agricultural, Human and Natural Resource Sciences, and
Phyllis Shier, College of Liberal Arts
Phyllis Shier, College of Liberal Arts
Among those seen in Shaheen-designed shirts of that era was Elvis Presley, who wore one for his 1961 soundtrack album “Blue Hawaii.”
PULLMAN - Alfred Shaheen, the man responsible for bringing Hawaiian textile design to the world’s attention, is the focus of an April 7-May 3 exhibit at the Washington State University Museum of Anthropology. The exhibit, "Hawaii’s Alfred Shaheen: Fabric to Fashion," is on a national tour and features stunning mid-20th century textiles and garments.
The exhibit kicks off April 7 during WSU’s Mom’s Weekend with a 5 p.m. performance by WSU’s Hawaii Club hula dancers. The show will take place in the museum exhibit space as part of the cultural ceremony associated with opening the exhibit. The exhibit's regular hours of 10 a.m.-4 p.m. will begin on Friday, April 8.
A lecture on the history of Hawaiian textiles will take place at 2 p.m. Saturday in College Hall 125. After the Mom’s Weekend events, the exhibit will be open 10 a.m.-4 p.m. through May 3 and by arrangement May 4-June 30.
Linda Arthur Bradley, professor in the Department of Apparel, Merchandising, Design and Textiles, is a scholar of Hawaiian textiles and WSU’s curator of costumes and textiles, as well as co-curator of the exhibit. She said Shaheen believed designs should be bright and dramatic works of art.
“People were able to communicate their love of different cultures through these designs and that is really a focus of the people of Hawaii,” she said.
Hawaiian shirt contest
looks for best and worst
In addition to the exhibit and opening events, there will be a Hawaiian shirt contest at noon Thursday, April 21, on Terrell Mall. Contestants will be judged on woven print shirts with collars and buttons, Bradley said.
“The goal is to find the best and worst Hawaiian prints with prizes for each,” she said. All events are free to the public.
The exhibit was planned and arranged by Shaheen’s daughter, Camille Shaheen-Tunberg, and co-curators Bradley and Deborah Corsini of the San Jose Museum of Quilts and Textiles. It enables the viewer to see representations of cultures displayed in garment styles that were popular in the mid-20th century, including some of Shaheen’s highly sought after originals collected by his daughter.
“It is not often that we see such a clear example of the melding of art, tradition and entrepreneurship,” said Mary Collins, director of WSU’s Museum of Anthropology. “Shaheen clearly loved the many cultural faces of Hawaii and captured and blended their unique sense of color, pattern and comfort, creating a style of clothing we all recognize. Few of us realize, however, that there is a background story of many human dimensions to these classic icons of west coast summers.”
Shaheen transformed fashion design not only in Hawaii but in the continental United States as well. He infused ethnic design into everyday western style, training artists in textile design and sending them to countries throughout the world. The artists made sketches and drawings of the motifs and patterns they saw in various cultures, and Shaheen transferred the illustrations into fabric designs using new dyes and techniques he developed.
“He was an innovator in manufacturing, design, marketing and promotions,” Bradley said. Within 10 years of starting his business, Shaheen was producing textiles worth approximately $35 million annually in today’s dollars.
“This guy had it all covered,” Bradley said, adding that the exhibit and related events will inform students how business and the humanities can intersect in constructive and profitable ways.