Thru January 5, 2014: Life on a String: 35 Centuries of the Glass Bead. Corning Museum of Glass.
A major exhibition will explore glass beads and beaded objects made by various cultures, representing 3,500 years of human history. Showcasing, for the first time, many important works from the large historical glass bead collection of The Corning Museum of Glass as well as objects on loan from seven institutions.
Life on a String will explore the use of glass beads for fashion and ornament, as symbols of power and wealth, as traded goods, and as objects of ritual, as well as illuminate the processes of beadmaking and beadworking. Curated by Adrienne V. Gennett and designed by noted industrial and product designer Harry Allen, the exhibition will present nearly 200 objects, many of which have never before been on display.
Highlights of the exhibition include early Venetian chevron and millefiori beads, Roman mosaic beads, West Africa bodom beads, Egyptian eye beads, Chinese horned eye beads, Japanese magatama beads, Bohemian beads imitating precious stones, North American beadworked garments, and contemporary beaded objects by Joyce Scott and David Chatt.
The size of glass beads often belies their importance. They can represent wealth, symbolize gender and family relationships, or indicate social status, all through meaning signified in their color and patterning. Economic and political relationships around the globe—especially during the period of European colonization—are embodied in the beads manufactured in Europe and distributed in Africa and North America. Their styles influenced indigenous bead production, and ultimately, beads made in formerly colonized lands followed a reverse course back to Europe.
Traded globally for centuries, glass beads are among the earliest attempts at glass production and have been found at ancient glass manufacturing sites in the eastern Mediterranean from the second millennium B.C. The beads in the exhibition demonstrate the variations in manufacturing techniques used to create beads and beaded objects through time. A loom for beading and molds used to make powdered glass bodom beads will be on display along with images of beads being produced around the world, to illuminate the vast and rich history of techniques for bead production. A new companion book, Glass Beads: Selections from The Corning Museum of Glass, by exhibition curator Adrienne V. Gennett, with contributions by Tina Oldknow, curator of modern glass, will be available to purchase from the Museum’s GlassMarket (glassmarket.cmog.org) in May 2013. The book features fifty highlights of beads and beaded objects in the Museum’s collection.
During the run of the exhibition, the Museum will offer special narrated flameworking demonstrations to show techniques used to make glass beads, and visitors will have the opportunity to create beads in hands-on Make Your Own Glass experiences.