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Reviewed by:
  • Creators and Consumers: Women and Material Culture and Visual Art in Nineteenth-Century Texas, the Lower South, and the Southwest
  • Cynthia Brandimarte
Creators and Consumers: Women and Material Culture and Visual Art in Nineteenth-Century Texas, the Lower South, and the Southwest. (Houston: Bayou Bend Collection and Gardens, the Museum of Fine Arts, 2016. Pp. 140. Photographs, notes.)

This collection of seven papers represents the proceedings from the fifth (2015) symposium named in honor of David B. Warren, founding curator of Ima Hogg's Bayou Bend Collection. The essays in Creators and Consumers have in common a focus on women as the primary actors in the creation and consumption of visual and material culture. The volume [End Page 230] contains papers on subjects ranging from a southern woman fashioning an elaborate hair wreath as an act of Confederate memory-making to a Louisiana plantation owner and widow on the eve of the Civil War purchasing on credit a set of stylish Rococo Revival parlor furnishings, a luxury purchase likely never paid for in full.

The 2015 symposium attracted both veteran and new scholars to participate. Paula Mitchell Marks, who first wrote about Texas women and their material worlds in Hands to the Spindle: Texas Women and Home Textile Production, 1822–1880 (Texas A&M University Press, 1996), leads the volume with an overview of the range of women's art activities in Texas, and she makes lively use of sources to make the historical record speak to her topic. Katherine J. Adams, author of Comfort and Glory: Two Centuries of American Quilts from the Briscoe Center (University of Texas Press, 2016), selects textiles included in her book to talk about the cultural factors that influenced the aesthetic decisions of the women who made the quilts. Drawing from her book, The Sunbonnet: an American Icon in Texas (Texas Tech University Press, 2009), Rebecca Jumper Matheson, presents rich visual and textual sources to convey, expertly, the rich meanings of the handmade sunbonnet.

New scholars joining the foregoing veterans are Mel Buchanan, Katherine Burlison, Lauren Clark, and Whitney Nell Stewart. Buchanan studies the parlor of Harriet Flower Mathews, which remained in situ until 2014 when it was installed in the New Orleans Museum of Art, where its interpretation has changed. Burlison writes about Mary Bella Prague Brice and her dilemma of being a talented artist while accepting her amateur status. In her essay, Clark sets the scene for the creation of a memorial hair wreath that was so typical in post-Civil War America and interprets the object that is so puzzling to many contemporary viewers. Whitney Nell Stewart argues that, after the Emancipation Proclamation, formerly enslaved African American women viewed making a home as a way to exercise freedom and reunite family.

Creators and Consumers is a fitting publication for Bayou Bend's symposium series. Importantly, this volume stands virtually alone in focusing on women and the material world in Texas and the South.

Cynthia Brandimarte
Texas Parks and Wildlife Department


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pp. 230-231
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