Textile Society of America


Date of this Version



Published in Textiles and Politics: Textile Society of America 13th Biennial Symposium Proceedings, Washington, DC, September 18- September 22, 2012.


Copyright 2012 by the author(s).


Artistic re-interpretation of the works of earlier centuries has become a mainstay of modern design. Textiles bearing Andean designs that appeared on pre-Columbian objects and the products of contemporary weavers using motifs from their own cultural traditions are well represented among cloth items used and marketed in Peru today. Only 150 years ago, however, pre-Columbian Andean textiles were little known. In the early twentieth century, knowledge of indigenous American cultures increased rapidly as archaeologists excavated previously unimagined cultural riches. Simultaneously, the international modernist movement toward streamlined design pushed artists and designers to seek inspirations for their bold new efforts. Especially but not only for Peruvian artists, both ancient and contemporary Andean cultures provided abundant inspiration. This paper explores the politics of representation revealed in twentieth-century interpretations of Andean textile designs and structures. It focuses on the production of artists who discovered Peru's ancient heritage and, inspired by the aesthetic and technical virtuosity shown in textiles, created their own, related art works, whether paying direct homage to the original creators or freely adapting the designs and structures. Prominent among these are three women, all born in the late 19th century but closely associated with 20th century modernism. Each promoted indigenous artistry as she produced her own, Andean-inspired works: Elena Izcue and Julia Codesido (both Peruvian), and Anni Albers (German). The paper contextualizes these developments within the realm of creativity writ large, examining how indigenous artists and artisans placement within contemporary art scenes academic fine" arts education.