Libraries Round the World: Where Text and Textiles Mesh

Across from the Philadelphia Museum of Art and the Rocky statue and steps, the Art Deco Perelman building annex holds the library and has edgy, fashion-forward exhibits. They’ve succeeded again with Off the Wall: American Art to Wear.

Philadelphia’s Perelman Annex with the library

The Latin root textere means to weave. Stories are usually communicated via written text, and clothing is typically made from textiles. Often formed out of our pure imagination, you will see how the two intersect. 

Leaning off the wall outside the exhibit

George Orwell’s dystopian novel 1984 inspired artist Jo-Ellen Trilling to create this jacket. Beware of the snakes and rats!

How about a fantasy inspired by woodcuts in Paul Fenimore Cooper’s 1928 novel, Tricks of Women and Other Albanian Tales? Anna V.A. Polesny created this colorful jacket. 

And we’ve got Wizard of Oz tights for Dorothy! Suzanna E. Lewis, inspired by the film, dreamed this up and even included the magical ruby slippers. This classic movie was based on novels written by L. Frank Baum back in 1905.  

This next one, which looks like a wall-hanging, is Treebeard created by Jean Williams Cacicedo. He was a character in J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings.

And we have another jacket based on the same Tolkien story painted by Nina Vivian Huryn. So cool! I wonder if it would fit me.

The library is on the second floor of the Perelman and open to the public from Tuesday to Friday. (I happened to be a day late or two days early so it was closed. Ah, rejection and disappointment. But don’t worry – I’m used to it.) Their collection includes print and e-books, periodicals, auction catalogs, on-line databases, and digital images.

The library – ready & waiting

Seeing art in person is so much better than looking at photos on-line. So consider visiting! Besides being my new hometown, Philadelphia was featured in the final print edition of the National Geographic Traveler magazine as one of the top cities in the world to visit in 2020. Try to get here before the fashion show closes on May 17th next year.  And if it happens, add a comment to this blog. We can try to meet for coffee!

After all this, I’m contextualizing mixing clothing with stories wherever I go. And since it’s nearing the Christmas holidays, what better way to end this blog? A camel holiday sweater reminiscent of the three camel-riding wise men travelers from Marshalls, designer unknown. 

Karen Stensgaard is a novelist with two books out in the world wide web so far – AQUAVIT and BLUENESS. She lives a short walk from the Philadelphia Museum of Art complex and the Rocky ‘underdog’ steps. Happy holidays!

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