Interwoven Worlds: Exploring Domestic and Nomadic Life in Turkey

— Godwin-Ternbach Museum, Queens College, CUNY, at Flushing Town Hall Curated by Amy H. Winter and Alexander Bauer —

FLUSHING, NY, February 9, 2012 – Interwoven Worlds: Exploring Domestic and Nomadic Life in Turkey will allow visitors to enter the simulated living spaces of a nomad’s tent and an Ottoman-style middle-class interior. This exhibition, organized by Queens College’s Godwin-Ternbach Museum (GTM), will be on view at Flushing Town Hall from March 9 through April 30.  

Curated by Alexander Bauer, assistant professor of anthropology at Queens College,
and Amy H. Winter, director and curator of the GTM, the exhibition highlights textiles from
the museum’s permanent collection alongside an array of objects to be found in a Turkish living space. Textiles—and particularly the carpets for which the Turks are famous—are the most important type of home furnishing and one of the primary forms of artistic expression in the larger Turkic world. On view will be hand-woven carpets, kilims (flat tapestry-woven rugs), cicims (embroidered flat-weave rugs), yataks (flat-woven bed coverings), two antique prayer rugs, as well as woven and embroidered accessories such as saddlebags, bedding, and hangings both for nomadic travel and for settled life.

Interwoven Worlds looks at objects from the perspective of the “historic present”: through time and across space. It will show that Turkish culture, as all culture, is both a product of its own history and its (sometimes hidden) relationship with other cultures. At the same time, it will offer a full presentation of the museum’s artworks, including ancient ceramics, glass, and metalwork.

Visitors will enter the two dwellings to experience how such living quarters would look and be arranged. They will be able to remove their shoes and walk on soft-pile rugs of silk and wool. The various objects on display portray one of the most common denominators of human life—the domestic home—which is both an intimate space and a sacred refuge. These environments will be complemented by sound recordings, and digital displays of texts and photographs, examining the technologies, symbolism, and historical significance of the materials. (These materials, as well as essays, images, and a checklist, will be published in an online catalog available throughout the exhibition and archived for public access thereafter.)

Textiles are the centerpiece of the exhibition. Whether nomadic, agrarian, or urban, Turks have always protected themselves from the weather by covering floors, and often walls and doorways, with woven materials. Hand-made of wool, cotton, and silk, Turkish textiles, particularly carpets, are natural insulators used as blankets, curtains, and covers for sofas, cushions, and floors.

The Ottoman-style interior, still extant in both urban and rural locales, will represent a middle-class home. It will be simulated to show characteristic architectural elements like lathed and partitioned windows, wood paneling, wooden timbers, and seating banquettes, as well as embroidered and woven décor and wall hangings, carpets, and mock cupboards to display ceramic objects.

A tent typical of Turkic tribal cultures will be constructed for the nomadic interior. Throughout the 20th century nomadic peoples often had to migrate to cities—many times against their will—to work in factories, thus eroding their populations and ways of life. Even so, their traditions live on, as is well illustrated by the continued demand for their textiles. The simulation of a typical nomadic home will highlight the beautiful materials and sophisticated and inventive technologies of these cultures, exhibiting items often kept in families and clans for generations.

By examining the homes of both nomadic and settled people, Interwoven Worlds is able to bring together elements of the exotic and the familiar, to weave together identities and cultures. This helps to avoid the romanticizing of “other” cultures in favor of examining the rich aesthetics and significance of objects within functional contexts that acknowledge the shared basic needs—and solutions—of all peoples.

A collaboration between the Godwin-Ternbach Museum and Flushing Town Hall, Interwoven Worlds is being held at the Flushing Town Hall (FTH), which is administered by the Flushing Council of Culture and the Arts (FCCA, a Smithsonian Affiliate), during the 2011-2012 academic year. As the GTM undergoes a major renovation and is closed to the public, the museum welcomes the opportunity to strengthen its relationship with FCCA.

An opening reception with traditional Turkish music and cuisine and a special lecture by Belkis Balpinar, founding director of the Vakiflar Carpet & Kilim Museum in Istanbul ( will be held Friday, March 9 at 5:30 pm. This event is sponsored in part by the Turkish Cultural Ministry and its affiliates and Güllüoglu Baklava & Café, Astoria, NY. Ongoing programs at FTH throughout the exhibition include children and family hands-on workshops, public school programs led by both GTM and FTH educators, and a lecture series:

Belkis Balpinar, founding Director, Vakiflar Carpet Museum, Istanbul, and modern kilim artist
Friday, March 9, 5:30 pm at Flushing Town Hall
Archeological findings and written material indicate that Anatolia was a textile center for more than 10,000 years. Added to this, the migration of nomadic Turkic tribes after the 11th century resulted in a great variety and diversity of Turkish flat woven rugs. Celebrated curator, author and weaving artist Belkis Balpinar discusses the dating, techniques and symbolism of the various types of flat-woven rugs and pile carpets that have made Turkey famous.

Kristina Richardson, Queens College History Department
Saturday, March 17, 2 pm, at Flushing Town Hall 
A specialist in Islamic history, Richardson will provide a close examination and discussion of key medieval pieces included in Interwoven Worlds to outline an emerging Islamic visual aesthetic that only crystallized in the 16th century.

Alexander A. Bauer, Queens College Anthropology Department
Thursday, March 22, 12:30 pm, at Flushing Town Hall
The homes of nomadic and settled peoples, and weaving, pottery and other craft traditions highlighted in Interwoven Worlds, have their origins in practices going as far back as the Neolithic period of the Ancient Near East. Bauer, co-curator of the exhibition and an archaeologist who co-directs a field project in the Black Sea region of Turkey, will discuss the long-term history of these traditions.

Andrew Hale
Sunday, April 1, 2 pm, at Flushing Town Hall
Hale’s Central Asian photo archive is the largest private collection of 19th- and early 20th-century photographs in the United States. He will draw from this incredible resource to discuss how early photographs document Central Asian costume and textile traditions.

This academic year Queens College is presenting the Year of Turkey, a series of lectures, live performances, and art exhibits that explore the many facets of Turkey: its politics, society, economy, and ethnicity as well as its art, literature, music, and film. For information on upcoming events, visit

Major funding for Interwoven Worlds has been generously provided by the Coby Foundation, Ltd.; the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs; New York State Council on the Arts, a state agency; and Bloomberg Philanthropy. Additional support has been provided by the Kupferberg Foundation, the Republic of Turkey Ministry of Culture and Tourism, Domenick and Rose Ciampa Foundation, Baklavaci Güllüolu, Vintage Food Corp., Office of the President, Queens College, and the Friends of the Godwin-Ternbach Museum. Special thanks to the Office of the Commercial Attaché, Consulate General of Turkey, NY, and Turkish Embassy, Washington, D.C.

The Godwin-Ternbach Museum at Queens College
The mission of Godwin-Ternbach Museum to preserve and display cultural objects for study by art students has grown over the last decade. Like its parent institutions, QC and CUNY, it advocates accessible, inclusive education through the liberal arts, using visual art and material culture as its vehicles. Professional and student-curated exhibitions draw on GTM’s permanent collection of over 4,000 objects from world cultures, dating from antiquity to the present. The breadth of these holdings allows presentations that serve the diverse communities of Queens, enlightening audiences about their own traditions and histories, those of other groups, and the American scene.

As the only encyclopedic museum in Queens—a part of the college’s Kupferberg Center for the Visual & Performing Arts—GTM introduces many individuals to art and artifacts they might not otherwise encounter.  Digital displays, catalogs, websites, lectures, symposia, films, and tours interpret objects through interdisciplinary lenses.

Kupferberg Center renovations will soon reveal a museum designed to serve audiences better, with a visitor orientation area, improved lighting, and rotating collection displays in the lobby. A new climate system will both preserve objects and permit GTM to enhance its shows with special loans. The complete Kupferberg project unifies the arts on campus with new signage and landscaping, giving the GTM and its partners a fresh presence as active and innovative entities in Queens and all of New York City.

For more about Queens College visit

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