Los Angeles, 21-28 April 2019

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Entrance to the Fowler Museum and exhibition, with in the centre a poster of the 'Dressed with Distinction' exhibition.

Entrance to the Fowler Museum and exhibition, with in the centre a poster of the 'Dressed with Distinction' exhibition.

On Sunday, 28 April, Gillian Vogelsang writes:

I have just spent a very busy week in Los Angeles, US, working at the Fowler Museum, UCLA, and talking with textile enthusiasts and visiting various collections, museums and art gallaries. In particular, thanks to the kindness of David and Elizabeth Reisbord, I also went to the amazing Huntington Gardens and Galleries and had High Tea in the Rose Garden.

One very unusual aspect of the trip was that David and Elizabeth currently have two exhibitions running, about very diverse groups of textiles originally from their private collection, at two different LA venues. There is a Central Asian ikat exhibition at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) called 'Power of Pattern‘ (curated by Clarissa Esguerra) and the 'Dressed with Distinction' exhibition at the Fowler Museum, about Ottoman Syrian clothing.

My trip was the culmination of several years of work by various members of the Fowler Museum, co-ordinated by curator Joanne Barrkman, with David and Elizabeth Reisbord and myself. The project revolved around a donation of some Ottoman Syrian garments to the museum by David Reisbord. They included items of attire from the late 19th century to the 1930’s.

The main focus of the collection is a range of abayas, which are cloak-like garments that are worn in both public and in private by men, women and children. The garments are on display in the Fowler Museum from the 17th March to the 18th August 2019. They also appear in a beautifully illustrated catalogue (with some amazing garment photographs taken by Don Cole), which will be available from June.

David and Elizabeth Reisbord, Los Angeles, April 2019.

David and Elizabeth Reisbord, Los Angeles, April 2019.

As part of the celebrations around the exhibition I was asked to give various presentations at the museum, including an informal talk for museum staff and a formal lecture on the 27th of April for a general audience. Over 150 people came to the lecture and many, understandably, were stunned by the beauty of the garments, but also very surprised about the long history of Syrian textile production, the international nature of the trade in raw materials, textiles and garments, and the sad fact that due to the current civil war in the country, this ancient tradition has probably come to an end. The events on Saturday ended with a reception in the Davis courtyard of the museum and a light buffet of Middle Eastern food. Perfect.

In addition to the activities surrounding the Ottoman Syrian garments, I was also asked on Wednesday (24th April) to give a talk about Levantine embroidery, namely the embroidery styles, techniques and uses from Syria, Jordan, Lebanon, Palestine and northern Egypt. I could talk about a colourful, surprising and stimulating range of embroideries (not that I am biased of course).

An unexpected bonus of seeing David and Elizabeth, is that David has very kindly given the TRC a selection of mainly Syrian textiles and garments. These items will really help in building up the Cultural Ark for Syrian textiles, which the TRC is actively engaged in building up. These and the other items given by David will be photographed and catalogued by the end of May and can be viewed via the TRC Online Collection. I would like to say a very big ‘Thank You’ to both David and Elizabeth for all their help and kindness to me, they are lovely people!

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