Binary Visions: 19th-Century Woven Coverlets from the Collection of
Historic Huguenot Street
Leslie LeFevre-Stratton, Curator of Collections, Historic Huguenot Street, and Brian Wallace, Curator,
The woven coverlets in this exhibition have been selected for their graphic appeal,
pattern play, and optical complexity. They are but a sampling of the one hundred and
two such textiles in the collection of nearby Historic Huguenot Street.
In addition to the aesthetic dimension of these coverlets—emphasized by displaying
them on museum walls and not in a historic setting—the exhibition seeks to focus
attention on three other areas: the weave structures typical of these textiles, the
technical and social developments marking the onset of the industrial revolution in this
region, and connections between traditional weaving techniques and the technologies
that define our digital age.
In visual terms, the scale and complexity of these designs—both the geometrics and the
figured—is evidence of the visceral power of ornamentation. In these coverlets,
patterns, motifs, and other visual elements are invented, borrowed, and altered in an
inventive manner that combines freedom and skill with a sensitivity to economics,
marketing, and taste.
There are three major types of woven coverlets on display here—float-work, double-woven
geometrics, and double-woven figured. All of the coverlets are comprised of
different combinations of white cotton (or linen) and dyed wool.
Through their actual woven patterns (symbols and texts) and through related records
and tools, these coverlets carry clear connections to the local families that purchased,
and used them. Scholars examine design motifs, photographs, personal and business
documents, and public records in an ongoing effort to track shifts in textile production
from the individual working in a front room to the small group working in a house or a
The word “binary” refers to the two threading directions on the loom and to the basic
over-and-under manipulation of these threads by the weaver. Binary also refers to the
fundamental structure of the digital technologies that enable and channel so much of
today’s visual communication and creativity. This exhibition outlines a two-century-old
story of industry and invention, patterning and appropriation, and collaboration and
entrepreneurship. It is intended to prompt reflection on, and further research into,
This exhibition was developed by the Samuel Dorsky Museum of Art in partnership with Historic
Huguenot Street. The partners gratefully acknowledge the contributions of S. Rabbit Goody, consulting
textile historian, and the following individuals: Ashley Hurlburt, Curatorial Assistant, Historic Huguenot
Street; Mary Kastner, Director, Design and Printing Services, SUNY New Paltz; Ed Felton, Wood Studio
Instructor, SUNY New Paltz; Ward Mintz, Executive Director, The Coby Foundation; J. Gilbert Plantinga,
photographer, Dylan McManus, artist and photographer’s assistant, and Jessica Kimmel, Dorsky
Major support for this exhibition and its related programs has been provided by The Coby Foundation,
Marianne Murray and Richard Rowley, with additional support from the Hudson Valley Federal Credit
Funding for Dorsky Museum exhibitions and programs is provided by the Friends of the Samuel Dorsky
Museum of Art and the State University of New York at New Paltz.
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