Symbols of Power: Luxury Textiles from Islamic Lands

Louise Mackie

Monday, October 26, 2015

The Coffee House Club
RSVP date is October 22, 2015

Louise Mackie is a leading scholar and curator of Textiles and Islamic Art at the Cleveland Museum of Art. Her topic “Symbols of Power: Luxury Textiles from Islamic Lands” is based on her sumptuously illustrated forthcoming book that draws extensively on Cleveland’s exemplary collection.

For centuries, luxury textiles were symbols of status, wealth, and power at Islamic imperial courts from the Atlantic to the Indian Ocean, setting standards for beauty and fueling prosperous, urban economies. In her new book Louise Mackie offers an unparalleled examination of Islamic luxury textiles, drawn from the Cleveland Museum of Art’s exemplary collection as well as from museums on four continents. Ms. Mackie offers a generous overview of the cultural significance of these textiles, as well as descriptions of primary motifs and patterns, and explanations of various techniques used in their production. She has a singular insight into the distinctive artistic characteristics of wealthy dynasties and periods. The book pinpoints luxury textiles as a vital link between art, culture, and history of the Islamic world and offers a much-needed contribution to scholarship on both textiles and Islamic art, and paves the way for further study and appreciation of these objects.

Louise Mackie is responsible for the internationally renowned textile collection representing 62 countries as well as the museum’s collection of art from Islamic lands. She recently completed Symbols of Power, a book on Islamic textiles based on Cleveland’s exemplary collection, one of the foremost in the world. Mackie has been curator since 1998.

Mackie installed the museum’s Italian paintings with related textiles in Draped in Splendor: Renaissance Textiles and the Church (2003–4), accompanied by an experimental touch-screen interactive titled How to Look at Textiles. She also served as host curator for The Quilts of Gee’s Bend; Treasury of the World; Jeweled Arts of India in the Age of the Mughals; and Fabric of Enchantment: Indonesian Batik from the North Coast of Java from the Inger McCabe Elliott Collection.

Before coming to Cleveland in 1998, Mackie served as the department head and curator of the textile and costume department at the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto, Canada (1981–98). She trained in textiles and carpets under Irene Emery and Charles Grant Ellis at the Textile Museum in Washington, DC, where she was curator of the Eastern Hemisphere Collections (1971–80). Previously, she was secretary in the Islamic department at the Metropolitan Museum of Art (1964–67).

In addition to giving numerous scholarly and public lectures on Islamic textiles and carpets, she taught in the Fine Arts department at the University of Toronto. She has consulted on Islamic textiles, including medieval textiles excavated at Fustat (Old Cairo) by Prof. George Scanlon in 1980.

Mackie has also written catalogues, chapters, and articles and contributed to large research projects. She was the video producer and project director of interdisciplinary fieldwork for Threads of Time: Handmade Textiles for Weddings in Fez, Morocco, a video documentary (1996) partially funded by the Barakat Foundation, which also led to conference papers and published articles. She also contributed to extensive collaborative international research on Ottoman Turkish silks of the 15th to 17th centuries as the textile scholar, spearheaded by Prof. Dr. Nurhan Atasoy along with Dr. Hulya Tezcan and Prof. Walter B. Denny in IPEK: Imperial Ottoman Silks and Velvets (2001), generously funded by the Turk Ekonomi Bankasi, Istanbul, Turkey.

Mackie was a founding director and past president of the Textile Society of America. She continues to serve on the Conseil de Direction of the Centre International d’Etude des Textiles Anciens (CIETA), based in Lyon, France (1985–87, 1991–2010), and previously sat on the Advisory Committee of the Textile Museum, Washington, DC (1982–89).

She holds a BA in art history from Wells College and an MA in Islamic art from the Institute of Fine Arts, New York University. Additional studies include coursework for a PhD at the Institute of Fine Arts, New York University, and coursework in Islamic art at the American University in Cairo.