How do Mennonites use material objects to express identity? Historically, it may have been through plain dress, head coverings, and large potluck dishes. But now, in order to represent the more recent history of the Mennonite church, we look to things like plates, mugs, and t-shirts.A new gallery on Goshen’s campus tracks this history in a creative display curated by Kate Yoder, a senior art and English writing double major.
In a press release from August 25, Yoder wrote “This exhibit is devoted to the way Mennonites since World War II have used commercially produced items of material culture to express religious and ethnic identity in public, in the work place, and in the home.”
This display is Yoder’s first experience as a curator.
“This exhibit, my curatorial debut, intrigued me because of its playful and tongue-in-cheek nature,” Yoder said, “What would it look like to take ordinary objects—t-shirts handed out for free at convention and mugs honoring various institutions—and display them in a gallery?”
The exhibit contains various mugs, plates, and t-shirts that chronicle a journey through ever-changing Mennonite identity. The exhibit’s first steps are filled with historical objects, showing images of Menno Simons and World War II era t-shirts presenting the word “PAX,” which would have been worn by conscientious objectors.
Following the evolution of the church, the exhibit concludes with the well known “Where’s My GLBTQ Prof?” and Pink Menno t-shirts which express beliefs about one current ideological question which has been raised in the Mennonite Church.
“As the curator, my main task was organizing the physical layout of the exhibit,” Yoder said. “The mugs, plates and t-shirts had already been selected by the Mennonite-Amish Museum Committee, so I looked at the objects, decided how to organize them, and then placed them in a visually appealing way in the gallery. It was a challenge to figure out how to best categorize these objects and then figure out appropriate ways to display them in a three-dimensional space.”
The exhibit, entitled “Mennonite Identity, in Mugs, Plates, and T-shirts,” is open now until Nov. 16th, in the Good Library Gallery.