I didn’t know what to expect as I began my summer internship at the de Young museum within the costume and textiles department. I was both nervous and thrilled. I worried that the space might prove to be inaccessible to me as an undergraduate student. This opportunity was special to me as an anthropology major at the University of California, Berkeley; working at the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco felt like a dream. One of my tasks was to conduct research on an object of my choosing. I searched for an intriguing piece from Latin America, as I felt it was important to bring my Mexican American lived cultural experience into my research. When I laid eyes on Olga de Amaral’s Lost Image 17, I knew I had found my muse.
Olga de Amaral (1932– ) is a textile artist from Bogotá, Colombia. She studied architecture in the United States before returning to Bogotá to pursue her craft. Since the beginning of Amaral’s career, her work has been an extension of the self. Building off the traditional craftsmanship of Latin American weaving that was typically seen as “women’s work,” Amaral pushes the boundaries of what we define as “fine art.” Intertwined in her textiles are reflections of culture, gender, and how we understand our place in the world. In studying Amaral, I came to better understand both the political and social weight a textile can carry.