A woman in Slovak folklore in works from GMAB’s collection and contemporary art
The exhibition from the collection fund of Miloš Alexander Bazovský Gallery in Ternčín and the selection of contemporary art represents a traditional as well as modern approach to Slovak folklore. As the title of the exhibition suggests, the main theme of the selected works is a woman, a woman as a folk muse, as a mediator of contact with nature and culture, but also as an ethnological theme of recordings of various costumes, embroidery and crochet laces. These elements were also displayed in works by various artistic approaches, in different artistic styles, techniques, formats and genres, both directly and indirectly. The exhibition presents a selection of works by 54 Slovak authors and more than 80 works of art from the beginning of the formation of Slovak modern to the present, found in the depository of the gallery, as well as borrowed from the well known Slovak authors.
Themes of folklore – depiction of folk costumes, folk festivals, architecture, rural environment, as well as the use of individual elements of folk art – embroidery, laces, folk ornament … – appear in Slovak art in every season. Inspiration of folk traditions and handicraft resonates in flat (depicting folk costumes, village festivities and the environment, as well as inspiration by traditional women’s works) as well as in spatial works (using traditional craftsmanship – especially wood carving, basketry, tinkering, lace making, ceramics). As the theme of folklore are very wide, we have chosen to focus only on the woman in folklore – and so on the reference to traditional women’s work, but also to the woman as such. One, but not the only one, feature of selected works is respect for traditional manual work, especially by embodying the relation to the textile material, which women used for sewing work and representative clothing and home textiles, followed by embroidery or lace decorations. Traditional folk clothing, as well as today’s folklore, combines the old traditions with new practices or patterns, which influence one another. Particularly the decorations for clothing is characterized by the symbiosis of craftsmanship with the needs and traditional taste of broad public. It was precisely the individual expressions of gifted woman who themselves embellished their embroideries and lace, which diversified the folk costumes. In the works, however, the position of women in the society of the rural environment is also described as girls, brides, women – wives, mothers, mother in laws, grandmoms, hosts… and the most importantly, women as a folk muse.
The woman as a muse
As the title itself suggests, the main theme of selected works is a woman as a mediator of contact with nature and culture, as a woman – a goddess, a muse, a mystical being, in her natural beauty, but also a tribute to the folk customs and traditions – textiles, folk costumes, embroidery and lace making. The exhibition aims to highlight the female element in the folkloric environment – to pay tribute to a woman as a muse, girl becoming a woman, a bride, a wife, a mother, a hostess, to honor her handmade work (costumes, lace, embroidery or ornament) and her true value. The selection of the works presents a collection of classical traditional themes, mostly conceived as ethnological records of costumes and folklore environments, as well as modernist and contemporary tendencies in the fine arts. A unique collection of almost all art forms, including the modern design of AHA Slovakia, show the woman and “womanhood” in Slovak folklore in a new light and new contexts. In this section, TRAKT presented the video documentation of the project Folklore graffiti.
Becoming A Woman
In the fine arts, young girls were depicted mostly pointing to traditional folk clothing and their realistic portrayal.
More interesting, and even more popular in GMAB’s collection fund, were female – brides and mothers.There can be found also the motives from women’s leisure time or from work responsibilities. The well-known Slovak folk song, which became the leitmotif of the concept of the exhibition, belongs to the typical small musical form of Slovak folklore – a cheerful, rhythmical song, the subject of which is the tradition of put clothes on the young bride, which was very important at that point of time. The amount and the richness of the clothing was a sign that the future wife is a right choice and meant a certain prestige. To avoid the gossiping, poor families had to get into debt.
„To take a good care of the bride in the 1950s meant to purchase of 15 dresses, 27 sleeves for working day, 26 sleeves for special occasions, of which 6 were not embroidered especially for mourning and big holidays, 7 blueprint skirt and 10 red folded skirts, 12 canopied aprons, 1 blueprint apron for mourning, 15 furriers, 2 fur coats for both workdays and holidays, 12 hats, 12 scarfs, 2 coats, sweater, 3 pairs of high felt boots, 2 pairs of high velvet trousers and 3 pairs of boots. In addition to the garment, the bride got: 3 polky ???, 2-3 tablecloths, 4 towels, 1 duvets and 6 featherbeds, 6 pillows and 20 chairs, and finally 4 bed sheets. ” (from the text to the exhibition of folk costumes, Horehron Museum in Detva, 2015)
A woman as an object of ethnological exploration in traditional culture has never been at the centre of attention. She has always been associated with the family as the basis of the so called “patriarchal family” of the rural society. In traditional culture, however, a woman was linked to the large number of different orders and prohibitions.
Already in youth, for instance the first menstruation was related to various ritual practices aiming the shorten its duration. However, the transformation of a girl into a woman did not happen that day, but only after the symbolic change of the head wreath to the hat bonnet cap.
„Virginity is reflected in our culture by wedding ceremonies in the symbolic party, wedding wreath.
The symbolic defloration of the young woman by taking the head wreath off and putting the hat bonnet cap on is the most important act in the life of a woman in traditional culture. However, even as a wife, a woman is considered to be the least important in a given hierarchy. However, the poor status was only temporary, the situation changed with the first childbirth, when she became a member of the respected women – mothers.“ (K. Beňová: A woman in the traditional culture of Slovakia: menstruation, virginity, motherhood (focusing on taboo), Department of Ethnology and Musicology, FF UKF v Nitre).