The Temecula Valley Museum presents Cloth as Community: Hmong Textiles in America, an exhibit organized and toured by ExhibitsUSA, a national part of Mid-America Arts Alliance. The exhibition was first curated in 1999 by Carl Magnuson, a cultural anthropologist, working with a Hmong refugee community. This beautiful, unique exhibit visually honors the transition from refugee to life in America and will be on display from June 17 through August 7, 2022.
Hmong flower cloth (orpaj ntaub) is one of the world’s great textile traditions and an excellent example of cloth as community. Despite its deep roots in Hmong culture, this complex art was not widely known outside Asia until after the Vietnam War, when Hmong refugees arrived in the United States. The works illustrate the profound relevance of textiles as infrastructure in the Hmong culture, an art form that shifted as it adapted to fit new realities. Now, visitors to the Temecula Valley Museum can experience the exhibition, Cloth as Community: Hmong Textiles in America beginning June 17, 2022. The exhibition features 28 textiles—flower cloths and embroidered story clothes—by those in the Hmong community.
The story of Hmong textile production reflects the shift in the creation of textiles with traditional abstract patterns created for family and ceremonial use to its evolution as a source of commerce and telling of a new life abroad. As the memory of the Vietnam War receded and American buyers required more upbeat subjects, many of the story cloth subjects morphed into representations of a new life in America or nostalgia for the pastoral life left behind (animals in a jungle, scenes of village life, or illustrated Hmong folk tales with English text). The works in this exhibition demonstrate a period when old textiles influenced new designs, often produced at a larger scale or with more space devoted to the triangular borders, and embroidered story cloths changed to fit a new market that was different from tourists or relief workers in the camps.
Curatorial updates to the exhibit were done by Geraldine Craig, who has published more than a hundred essays on contemporary art and Hmong textiles, in venues such as the Hmong Studies Journal, The Journal of Modern Craft, Art in America, and Surface Design Journal. ExhibitsUSA sends more than 25 exhibitions on tour to more than 100 small-and mid-sized communities every year. Based in Kansas City, Missouri, Mid-America is the oldest nonprofit regional arts organization in the United States. More information is available at maaa.org and eusa.org.
For more information, please visit TemeculaValleyMuseum.org, or call (951) 694-6450.