Curator’s Choice: Reframing the Past with Meghann O’Brien and Elena Phipps
Meghann O’Brien is a Haida and Kwakwaka’wakw artist whose Chilkat textiles are based on the knowledge and artistic practices of her ancestors. Her projects engage specialized techniques of basketry and weaving, and use mountain goat wool, cedar bark, and other earthly materials to connect to the rhythms and patterns of the natural world. With these materials, she explores issues related to Indigenous fashion and couture, reframing the past and applying it to present-day life. Join the Fowler for a conversation between Meghann O’Brien and textile scholar Elena Phipps about new ways of looking at Indigenous knowledge and creative practice in the realm of textile making.
Meghann O’Brien (b. 1982) is a Northwest Coast weaver from the community of Alert Bay, B.C. Her innovative approach to traditional art forms of basketry and Yelth Koo (Raven’s Tail) and Naaxiin (Chilkat) textile weaving creates a continuity between herself and her ancestors. Meghann now lives in Vancouver, B.C. and is currently exploring the intersection of Indigenous materials and techniques with the world of fashion and 3D printing. She travels globally to lecture and demonstrate her work, yet emphasizes the value of contributing to the contemporary ceremonial practices of the Haida and Kwakwakw’wakw peoples.
Elena Phipps focuses on the history of textile materials and techniques in cultural contexts. She was a textile conservator at the Metropolitan Museum of Art for 34 years and co-curated the award-winning textile exhibitions, The Colonial Andes: Tapestries and Silverwork 1430–1830 (2004) and The Interwoven Globe: Worldwide Textile Trade (2013). In 2013, she curated The Four-Selvaged Peruvian Cloth: Ancient Threads/New Directions for the Fowler Museum. Elena’s most recent publication is “Woven Brilliance” (Textile Museum Journal, 2021). She has served as President of the Textile Society of America (2011–14) and taught in UCLA’s Department of World Arts and Culture/Dance since 2011.
Join curators for lively conversations about their passions and projects that inspire audiences to engage with different worldviews and find joy in the diversity of human experiences.
Image credit: David Koppe courtesy of Douglas Reynolds Gallery