Exhibit showcases Guatemalan culture

Textiles, photos and color: Visitors gathered Saturday to look at eye-catching objects at the opening of the new Maya Textiles from the Guatemalan Highlands exhibition. The opening reception at the Goldstein Gallery included traditional South American food and live music.

Mason Riddle, director of the St. Paul campus’s Goldstein Museum of Design, said it is important to have South American visual ideas at the University.

“Globalization continues to bring countries closer together, and in the Twin Cities, we have a growing population of people from Guatemala, Mexico and other Central American countries,” Riddle said.

“By presenting Maya textiles from Guatemalan Highlands, the Goldstein hopes to increase our cultural and artistic ties with these communities and enhance our role as a teaching museum with both the University of Minnesota and the public.”

The exhibit features photographs and textiles collected by photographer Richard Nelson, a University graduate in applied design who traveled in Central America and lived the lives of indigenous people.

“It is definitely an adventure; not your typical vacation,” he said.

Nelson also discussed what it was like trying to get around collecting his now-famous textiles and spoke about the graciousness of Guatemalan people.

“Guatemala, with its indigenous Maya culture, is one of the few places on Earth where traditional crafts from ancient culture survive. The majority of the women and men still wear their handwoven traditional dress, or traje, whose intricate patterns identify them with a particular village,” Nelson said.

Tie-dyeing was one process used to make some of the clothing featured at the museum’s opening. Tie-dyed clothing is made by tying small portions of cotton or silk thread so tightly with string that the tied parts do not take color when the threads are dipped into dye.

Maria Ryan, a resident of San Lucas Toliman, Guatemala, brought the dyed thread and the material she needed for the next stage in making a piece of clothing at the event. She demonstrated a method of hand weaving that is traditional in San Lucas Toliman while wearing a dress made from the technique.

The College of Human Ecology, which houses the Goldstein Museum, provides University students with opportunities to get involved in clothing design, housing design and graphic design.

Nelson said the show was important for human ecology students who are studying color.

“But then it also ties in a lot of other areas such as anthropology, women’s studies and my field of photography,” he said.