Rebecca Hall is Assistant Curator at the USC Pacific Asia Museum in Pasadena, CA. She most recently curated the special exhibition We Are Here: Contemporary Art and Asian Voices in Los Angeles. Her PhD is in Southeast Asian art history and her research and publications focus on Buddhist art and practice in Thailand, Laos, and Cambodia. Her recent articles examining the art of funerals in Northern Thailand were published in Ars Orientalis and the Journal of Southeast Asian Studies.
Weaving Merit in Buddhist Southeast Asia
Handwoven banners provide a unique opportunity for women to show off their creativity and skill while also making merit, an integral part of Buddhist practice in Southeast Asia. Importantly, these long, colorful pieces of cloth represent a rare example of Buddhist art created by women. The banners are woven with great detail and attention, with motifs that echo popular Buddhist narratives, characters often seen in mural paintings, and visions of heavenly ideals. After a banner is woven, it is donated to a local monastery and either hung inside of an image hall or stored and displayed for specific celebrations or festive events. Such intricate and beautiful banners were once relatively common in some parts of Thailand, Laos, and Myanmar into the early 21st century, but in recent years they have become quite rare. The disappearance of the banners is a result of the declining interest in weaving cloth and the growing number of banners manufactured from other materials. This paper examines the effects the declining number of woven banners has had on women’s ability to make merit and asks if the loss of handwoven banners has resulted in a loss of women’s arts to have a presence in Buddhist religious spaces in the region.
Museum Matters Roundtable
Ceremonies and Celebrations was a textile exhibition at the USC Pacific Asia Museum intended to highlight the textiles in the museum’s permanent collection. The museum is best known for its Chinese and Japanese collections, but as curator I was most interested in pulling from the breadth of the collection and finding a way to highlight the diversity of Asian textiles without giving the majority of attention to East Asia. I will discuss my solutions to the issues in creating flexible categories that could be applied in universal examinations of textiles and the advantages and disadvantages of creating exhibitions that cover a large range of geographic, cultural, and historical possibilities.