The Matter of Bark Cloth
Produced across the world, bark cloth is an artistic object made from the inner bark of trees and is often a critically important artistic product for the communities that produce it. Bark cloth’s ability to function as both a textile as well as a painted decorative surface extends its importance. However, because Euro-American artists have not historically created artworks from bark, the artform has been understudied and under-collected by Euro-American art museums. It also defies traditional Western categorizations of artistic genre (such as painting, textile, and work on paper).
This presentation, drawn almost entirely from the BMA’s collection, focuses on the importance of this unique artistic medium with nineteen beautifully patterned artworks from across Africa and Oceania. These works expand our considerations about the nature of art and the limits imposed by categorization.
Curated by Kevin Tervala, BMA Associate Curator of African and Oceanic Art