Philbrook Museum of Art

Tulsa, OK

800-324-7941 918-749-7941

Front of Museum, photo by John Hazeltine

Museum Gardens, photo by John Hazeltine


Beads: A Cross-Cultural Medium


Sioux (Dakota), Red Umbilical Cord, c. 1890


An exhibition of beadwork from The Philbrook Museum of Art collections will be on display Jan. 31 - Mar, 14, 1999 in conjunction with Pure Vision: American Bead Artists. This exhibition will illustrate the range and diversity found in bead application and feature a hands-on area for visitors.

Beads: A Cross-Cultural Medium will explore the use of beads in diverse cultures over the centuries, from Egyptian necklaces (ca. 15,000 BC) to contemporary works by African American and Native American artists. The exhibition is organized into four object and design groups: necklaces, bead-covered objects, baskets and bags, and clothing.

In the first category, "the bead" is introduced, including the variety of materials used and the universality of appreciation for certain specific materials. For example, shell beads from Africa and North America will be compared with necklaces using pearls from Syria (100-200 AD) and Spiro Mound (1,200 AD). The importance of the bead as a medium of exchange will also be considered through such examples as Belgian trade beads in an African Ashanti necklace and Venetian beads in a Creek necklace.

Technically, stringing beads (as in a necklace) is the simplest beading technique. But strings of beads can also be used to decorate objects, be it a Yoruba dance wand, a birch bark baby seat or wound about a flute. Strands of beads can be stitched down to totally cover a ritual object like an African mask or Dakota charm.

The third category, baskets and bags, will include Pomo baskets and Apache bags, which make a fascinating comparison with European-American beaded bags of the late 1800's, as well as Arapaho/Cheyenne "possible bags" (tote bags) and bandoleer bags from the Great Lakes region. The range of materials and styles in this section will provide a general introduction to a variety of woven beading techniques.

From moccasins to Keds and from traditional Dakota to European American "flapper" dresses, beads have been used to decorate clothing. The final section featuring beaded clothing will focus on design as both an individual and group expression. Visitors will be intrigued by two dresses in particular in this section, which were worn by Mrs. Waite (Genevieve) Phillips, former mistress of Villa Philbrook (1927 - 1938).

Associated with this exhibition and that of Pure Vision: American Bead Artists will be an area where you too can try your hand at loom beading with large beads. (Don't worry, there are patterns to follow!)

Beads: A Cross-Cultural Medium is organized by The Philbrook Museum of Art with Dr. Lydia Lloyd Wyckoff, curator of Native American & non-western art at Philbrook. The exhibition is sponsored by the Oklahoma Arts Council.

rev. 11/22/10

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