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Green Armor Wrap, Protect, Cover, Perform

Green Armor: Wrap, Protect, Cover, Perform

Human Ecology Building, Level T Display Cases

October 5 - November 10, 2020

(Satellite Exhibit) Opatrny Gallery in the Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art

October 20 – November 2, 2020


GREEN ARMOR: Wrap, Protect, Cover, Perform was curated from materials in the Cornell Fashion + Textile Collection and the Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art to explore and celebrate the power of the color green as a form of armor throughout fashion history. The exhibit was a rapid fashion curation project spearheaded by undergraduate and graduate students in Dr. Denise Green’s “Curating Fashion Exhibitions” course and was curated in response to the COVID-19 campus climate and the Cornell Society for the Humanities 2020-2021 “Fabrication” theme. Green Armor was a multi-sited exhibit: the first site was the Human Ecology Building’s ground floor display cases (Level T), which ran October 5, 2020 - November 10, 2020; the second site, GREEN ARMOR: The Playwrights (In Three Acts), was on display in the Opatrny Gallery in the Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art, October 20 – November 2, 2020..

The first part of the exhibition, The Troupers, explores the reshaping and cloaking of the human body. From a surgeon’s smock and Iranian chador to an early 20th century wedding gown, the diverse array of garments engage in a conversation about covering the human body. From power suits to gymwear, The Emissaries explores the dichotomous function of the suit as a costume for both leisure and the workplace. Though of these garments serve paradoxical purposes, they deliver the wearer into their desired sphere. The third part of the exhibition, The Dancers, features a collection of shoes and socks across a vast array of cultural contexts and eras. The pieces on display reflect movement in the life of the wearer. The Viewers focuses on “seeing green” as a way of being. Showcasing a pair of green-lens pince-nez, expressing meditation upon seeing green literally and metaphorically, as we observe green as a system of defense and a way to see further.

The Playwrights (In Three Acts) includes artworks that were displayed in the Opatrny Gallery at the Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art (Oct. 20–Nov. 1, 2020). This section of the exhibit explores how visual artists have used the color green to contribute to perceptions of embodied fashion and protection. The works are organized into three acts—covering, dressing, and exposing the body—whereby artists have used green in a meaningful way to produce different relationships between fashion and the body. The concept of “green armor” is not only conveyed through the physical adornment of fashion but also through the ways in which visual artists have represented such performances in their artworks.

The color green has many disparate connotations: it symbolizes sustainability, nature, newness, vitality, and growth, but also toxicity, greed, envy, and money. Green has a longstanding relationship with the human body: it signals illness but also alerts the body when it is safe to “go,” enhanced today by our collective Cornell COVID-19 dashboard that reminds us green is the “new normal.” From grass skirts and saris to coats, bathing suits, and footwear, the exhibition is organized according to different groups that employ green: The Troupers, The Emissaries, The Dancers, and The Viewers in the Human Ecology Building, and The Playwrights (In Three Acts) at the Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art.

Showcasing wraps and gowns, suits, performance wear, artworks, and eyewear, Green Armor seeks to chronicle the history of the color in sheltering, unifying, adorning, and protecting the human body. Its individual cases grouped according to the people across various cultures, times, and environments, Green Armor aspires to open a thoughtful dialogue between static garments and the movement they enact and enable.

"We are contemporaries to catastrophe. Over 200,000 U.S. deaths and counting. Green has become our “new normal,” a color we must aspire to when our government has failed to mitigate or respond appropriately to the call of the people - what can we do? We adorn ourselves in the power of green: suits, coats, wraps, gowns, socks and shoes—that is, a modern human’s armor to the elements, from the eyes to the feet. We celebrate the shelter these objects provide, through the lens and unifying pizazz of the ubiquitous, culture crossing, looks good on everyone: GREEN. With inclusion of “eye protection” – the pince-nez (a green glass lens) the twinkle in our eyes, and for the weary, a physical lens with which to relax in the sun."

– Christine McDonald, MFA '22, Lead Curator