The de Menil Gallery Archive

"Gathering Beauty: Tribal Artifacts & Textiles" by Beth Van Gelder

March 28­–June 3, 2019
Selected Objects from the Elizabeth Van Gelder Collection
Reception: May 11, 2:00–4:00 p.m.
Former Groton art teacher Beth Van Gelder developed a serious interest in tribal artifacts and textiles during travels on her sabbatical in 1989. Curious about non-Western cultures, she made intentional connections with people who invited her into their lives, including into their art, daily rituals, and sacred ceremonies.
Drawn by artifacts’ design, motifs, colors, and patterns, she began collecting handmade objects that each conveyed a visual narrative. Utilitarian objects were often elevated from ordinary to extraordinary through labor-intensive ornamentation. “I was filled with awe by the amount of detail that would embellish a common utilitarian object such as a spoon, a comb, or a basket,” Ms. Van Gelder says.
Studying non-Western art, she explains, challenges Western notions of beauty and permanence. Sometimes the objects’ creation, as an offering to the divine, is more important than the object itself. “With my collection,” she says, “I hope to demonstrate the variety and commonality of artifacts across various cultures and the myriad ways that they reveal our common humanity.”