The Art of Rebellion
Nancy Gewirz, MFA ’89, captured the explosive 1960s culture as curator of the exhibition Clothing the Rebellious Soul: Revolution 1963-1973 at GW’s Luther W. Brady Art Gallery. The exhibition, which ran from Nov. 5 to Jan. 22, displayed authentic vintage clothing from the 1960s and early 1970s, including fringed suede, patchwork denim, crocheted dresses, peasant blouses, and painted jeans. Among the keystone pieces was a red, white, and blue leather jacket with American flag-inspired stripes and stars and long fringe trimmed with beads.
“Clothes became the message, almost like a poster, with sayings and pictures,” Ms. Gewirz says. “It didn’t matter what you were wearing, but it was important to get your message across.”
Ms. Gewirz runs the Bethesda, Md.-based company Antique Textile Resource, a textile and vintage clothing company that sells clothing patterns from the 1880s through the 1930s, as well as the 1960s era, to the New York fashion industry. For the exhibition, Ms. Gewirz, who won the David Lloyd Kreeger award for sculpture from GW, collaborated with collector Mark Hooper, a writer, lecturer, and expert on the 1960s.
“It was a very creative period in time and a very proactive period in time,” Ms. Gewirz says. “These kids came along and said ‘No way! We’re going to express ourselves and make and adapt our clothes to our liking.’”
Clothing the Rebellious Soul included hundreds of pieces of ephemera of all kinds, such as record album covers and photos of some of the period’s influential musicians, like Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin. A glass display case outside of the gallery also held rare historical pieces from private collections, including an Earth Day flag for the first Earth Day demonstration, Black Panther Party newspapers, handbills, an original Woodstock T-shirt, casts of hands making the peace sign, painted military helmets, “Stop the War” and civil rights buttons, and crocheted purses. Documented also was GW’s own 1960s rebellion, including the Maury Hall Takeover on April 23, 1969, in which 40 members of the Students for a Democratic Society instigated a five-hour siege in Maury Hall.