Discover Connections Between Immersive Installation and Exhibition of Prayer Carpets at The Textile Museum

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Discover Connections Between Immersive Installation and Exhibition of Prayer Carpets at The Textile Museum
Anne Lindberg’s site-specific installation what color is divine light? Photo by Derek Porter.

WASHINGTON, DC.- Visitors are encouraged to make their own connections between two vastly different but related offerings that transform space – Anne Lindberg: what color is divine light?, a site-specific and immersive installation, and Prayer and Transcendence, an exhibition of classical prayer rugs, at The George Washington University Museum and The Textile Museum in Washington, DC, through July 1, 2023.

Set against lavender walls, Anne Lindberg: what color is divine light? contains thousands of chromatic threads in complementary yellow and blue colors – creating a cloud of color that evokes light itself. The installation invites visitors to gather and reflect: If divinity could be experienced as a physical presence, what might it look like? Sound like? Feel like? What color is divine light?

“Saf” (multiple-arch prayer carpet), India, late 18th century. The Textile Museum Collection R63.00.15. Acquired by George Hewitt Myers in 1950.

In Prayer and Transcendence, some 20 classical prayer carpets from Türkiye, the Caucasus, Iran, Central Asia and India spanning the 16th through 19th centuries are drawn from five collections – The Textile Museum Collection, Harvard Art Museums, Cincinnati Art Museum, the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Markarian Collection. The exhibition explores the role and iconography of prayer carpets across time and the Islamic world, as well as design comparisons from the Jewish tradition.

"Museums often serve as secular places for contemplation, especially during challenging times," said John Wetenhall, director, The George Washington University Museum and The Textile Museum. "We hope that both the installation and the exhibition provide comfort and wonder for students and visitors from around the world who invest the time to reflect."

Anne Lindberg is a multimedia artist whose work centers on immersive installations and drawings that tap a non-verbal physiological landscape of body and space, provoking emotional, visceral and perceptual responses. She is the recipient of multiple awards, fellowships and grants, including a Painters & Sculptors Joan Mitchell Foundation Grant and a Charlotte Street Foundation Fellowship. Her work has been exhibited widely and is held in collections across the United States. Lindberg received a B.F.A. from Miami University and a M.F.A. from Cranbrook Academy of Art.

Across many religions, light is used as a symbol of divine presence on Earth. Inspired by a 1971 essay by art historian Patrik Reuterswärd, "What Color is Divine Light?," Lindberg created what color is divine light? as both her response to an unanswerable question and an echoing prompt to visitors. Scientists have determined that between complementary colors exist colors the eye and brain cannot perceive, called “impossible” colors. “It’s the unnamed space between,” states Lindberg. “Although our eyes can't perceive the colors, we feel them, sense them. The divine, likewise, is unnamable, untouchable, intangible.”

Support for Anne Lindberg: what color is divine light? and related programming is provided by the Fund for Contemporary Textile Art, the Cynthia and Alton Boyer Fund for Education, the Estate of Jack Lenor Larson and the Contemporary Textiles Endowment.

Prayer carpet, Safavid Empire, Iran, 16th century. Metropolitan Museum of Art 17.120.124. Mr. and Mrs. Isaac D. Fletcher Collection, bequest of Isaac D. Fletcher, 1917.

The distinctive iconography of prayer carpets in Prayer and Transcendence has been developed over centuries and circulated through trade and religious pilgrimage (hajj). Carpets on display all share a central motif: an elegant arch surrounded by vegetation and flowers. One of the most iconic images in a prayer carpet, the arch often symbolizes the gateway to paradise, conceived in the Koran as a lush, walled garden.

The exhibition also explores the spiritual meaning of the lamp and water pitcher motifs that recur throughout prayer carpet design. Worshippers use water from a pitcher, or from a fountain in the mosque courtyard, to cleanse both body and spirit before they pray. In the mosque, a hanging lamp symbolizes the divine presence. Two Jewish Torah Ark curtains on view employ a similar artistic representation of a lamp as a symbol of divine light, and the arch as the entrance to paradise.

Support for Prayer and Transcendence and related programming is provided by Aramco Americas, the Bruce P. and Olive W. Baganz Fund for The Textile Museum Exhibitions and Publications, the David Berg Foundation, E. Rhodes and Leona B. Carpenter Foundation, and the Markarian Foundation. Additional support is provided by Tina M. deVries, Helen K. King, Mary Jo Otsea and Richard H. Brown, Roger and Claire Pratt, and David M. Sloan.

"In the Muslim faith, carpets create physically and spiritually 'clean' spaces during the daily ritual of prayer," said Sumru Belger Krody, senior curator, The Textile Museum Collection. "Programs designed to engage visitors with the artworks in the exhibition and the installation will include music performances in the galleries and a virtual artist talk."

For information on the museum's visiting hours, exhibitions and educational programs please check the museum website. Guided tours, as well as virtual and in-person programs, will explore themes from the exhibition and installation.

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