At the center of the textiles curriculum is a comprehensive series of courses on the history of textiles. The study of diverse textile traditions offers cross-cultural insights on topics such as cultural continuity, gender, domesticity, race, industrialization, and colonization. A historical and theoretical knowledge of the field provides students with an informed perspective from which conceptually strong and thoughtful work can emerge. Textile history courses are offered in the spring semester only and have a four-year rotation of topics including Layering Culture: Textile History of Africa & the Americas; Crossing the Continent: Textiles of the Middle East, Asia, and Oceania; Women's Work: History of European and Contemporary Textiles; Concealed and Revealed: A Conceptual Investigation of Body Adornment. This series is the most comprehensive offered at an arts institution in the United States.
For millennia humans have transformed the physical surfaces and spatial contours of their bodies by concealing and revealing, embellishing and streamlining, expanding and constricting. In doing so, they have fashioned personal space and defined communal identities. This course investigates the human impulse to modify the individual body and the diverse ideologies used to construct the social body from a cross-cultural perspective.Investigations focus on notions of humanness, nakedness, protection, power, transformation, gender, identities, beauty, and modernity. Subjects include the Islamic veil, African masking, Polynesian tattooing, European cross-dressing, and Chinese foot binding. Discussions include how these models and others have informed diverse disciplines such as sculpture, photography, and painting.