The Paine opens new exhibits

Liam Beran, Staff Writer

The Paine Art Center and Gardens reopened on Friday following a temporary closure that allowed the facility to create two new exhibits: one showcasing South African glass bead art, and another showcasing glass paperweights.

The exhibits are titled Ubuhle Women: Beadwork and the Art of Independence and Paperweights in Bloom, and are meant to serve as companions to each other and an upcoming Rooms of Blooms floral arrangement event. The Paine Center’s Curator of Exhibitions and Collections, Laura Fiser, worked with Exhibition Committee members and Executive Director Aaron Scherer to select the exhibits.

Liam Beran / Advance-Titan
The Beadwork exhibit opens March 3. This is the largest piece in the beadwork exhibit, entitled The African Crucifixion, it was created by seven Ubuhle Women artists.

“It just all came together really naturally and nicely,” Fiser said. “I think it’s a wonderful pairing of the two exhibitions.”

Ubuhle Women will serve as the artistic inspiration for floral arrangements to be produced and displayed during the Rooms of Bloom event debuting in March while Paperweights in loom is meant to be a companion to both.

“I think both exhibitions show that nature is inspiration, beautiful color and form, but also that meticulous, virtuoso technique in glass,” Fiser said.

Ubuhle Women: Beadwork and the Art of Independence came about as a collaboration between Ntombephi “Induna” Ntobela and Bev Gibson in the South African province of KwaZulu-Natal, during 1999. Ntobela and Gibson imagined rural women using skills in beadwork, often inherited from mothers or grandmothers, as a way to help local women and their families achieve financial independence. These women began to call themselves ubuhle, which translates to “beauty” in Xhosa and Zulu languages.
These days, the Ubuhle womens’ artwork has been displayed in various states across the country as part of a traveling exhibit organized by International Arts and Artists, a nonprofit arts service organization.

The exhibit depicts large-scale displays of glass beadwork; the beads are carefully arranged onto black fabric sheets treated like canvases. The Ubuhle women refer to these finished works as ndwangos, roughly translating to rag or cloth, according to the International Arts and Artists website.

Often depicted in the ndwangos are various motifs and symbols meant to represent the lives of the Ubuhle women. Many of the pieces depict bulls, a symbol of wealth in Xhosa and Zulu culture, or trees, which Ntobela utilizes to depict spiritual connections to ancestors, as well as the living world.

Many ndwangos also serve as memorial pieces meant to honor Ubuhle women who have died, particularly from HIV/AIDS.

“Some of the panels are tributes to Ubuhle women, or relatives who have passed away, many from HIV/AIDS and it shows how art can be a powerful tool, almost a form of therapy for many of the artists as they work through their memories and their feelings of loss,” Fiser said.

Fiser said the artwork of the Ubuhle women offers compelling life stories, in addition to intricate, grand displays of beadwork.

Liam Beran / Advance-Titan
A glass paperweight on display at the Paperweights in Bloom exhibit.

“It’s great to be able to look beyond just the intricacy of the beads and the beautiful bold patterns and colors to realize that there is a more significant, meaningful story that the artists are sharing, right alongside the beautiful beads and shimmering qualities.”

Paperweights in Bloom is an exhibit of glass paperweights from the Bergstrom-Mahler Museum of Glass and local collector Rosann Baum Milius that’s being held in conjunction with the biannual meeting of the Paperweight Collectors Association, according to the Paine Art Center website.

“We typically will have another exhibition complementing whatever is in the main gallery. So that’s where the paperweights come in,” said the Paine’s Marketing Manager Noell Dickmann.

The paperweights feature floral designs and elements, which are meant to complement elements of nature found in Ubuhle Women and the upcoming Rooms of Bloom.

“We have all the way from antique paperweights and vintage styles through contemporary art forms, and really, they’re so much more than paper weights. They’re really small art glass sculptures,” Fiser said.

Flower arrangements complement artwork.
Both exhibits are meant to complement the upcoming Rooms of Bloom event, which will see artists create floral arrangements that draw inspiration from pieces displayed in Ubuhle Women.

“Every single room of this mansion is bursting with flowers. So [when] you walk in, you’re gonna smell all the flowers, your eyes might water a bit if they’re, you know, tickling your senses. It’s a really wonderful way of kind of getting some … spring-like air,” Dickmann said.

The event will take place during March 3-6 and March 10-13; Ubuhle Women: Beadwork and the Art of Independence and Paperweights in Bloom will be on display until May 22.