Material Metaphors: Ear Adornments of the Americas

Maria Cury, Class of 2012 and one of our summer interns, researched and developed an exhibition about ear adornments, which have embellished the human body since ancient history. The display features examples ranging from Alaska to Colombia, from delicate dangles to skin-stretching spools.

Shuar (Jívaro): Ear ornament (akitiai), 1960–75 (2010-217).Photo: Bruce M. WhiteAlthough the dazzling objects are diverse in design, they are all examples of medium turned to metaphor. The very choice of material and the manner of its transformation derive from potent cultural ideas and beliefs. By wearing such ornaments, people both embody and express culturally specific concepts of vitality, spirituality, and nature.