“Woman, the Spirit of the Universe” kicking off 2-month SETX exhibit in Port Arthur

Published 12:40 am Friday, March 18, 2022

The exhibit “Woman, the Spirit of the Universe” will be displayed at the Museum of the Gulf Coast from Friday (March 25) through May 30 in the Dunn Gallery of the Museum of the Gulf Coast.

Carolyn Marks Johnson designed and created bronze collars honoring 21 women throughout history who have made a difference in the struggle for women’s rights.

“The collar is my icon for a gender-based social statement to uplift the woman honored with a symbol of her life,” Johnson said. “Not all such women could be included in this exhibit, but the representatives here take in many others. You will notice that both Margaret Brent and Abigail Adams surrounded themselves with lace. I think both women used lace as a disguise for their very strong personalities and intelligence.

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“Collar styles change, and as we move into the 21st century, our strong women wear the same type of collar, which I see frequently on women in the political world.”

Her long artistic journey started with the seven-year process of meticulously recreating each piece by hand-cutting and stitching each cotton collar. Each was then dipped in wax and then a plaster foundation.

The exhibit features bronze collars honoring 21 women throughout history. (Courtesy photo)

The interior was burned out at an extremely high temperature leaving a cast. The bronze was poured into the cast, and after cooling, the cast was carefully removed, and the bronze surface was given a final patina and then polished.

The women represented in the exhibit are Margaret Brent, Abigail Smith Adams, Betsy Ross, Deborah Sampson Gannett, Sojourner Truth, Harriet Tubman, Myra Bradwell, Elizabeth Blackwell, Margaret Louise Higgins Sanger, Dorothea Lange, Anna Eleanor Roosevelt, Patsy Takemoto Mink, Mazie Keiko Hirono, Barbara Jordan, Ann Richards, Georgia O’Keefe, Wilma Mankiller, Dolores Huerta, Sally Ride, Nancy Pelosi, Sonia Sotomayor and Ruth Bader Ginsberg.

Displays officials said the most iconic collar of local time is the white lace collar of Ruth Bader Ginsberg. When she died, a Ginsberg collar was placed on the running girl statue in tribute. She was also known to wear different collars to express a variety of messages while sitting on the court.

Collars have always had a distinct purpose, which was often overlooked because of what they had come to represent. In the 1800s, the American Middle Class adopted collars as a symbol of their professional status.

“White-collar” and “blue-collar” entered our lexicon about 1910. Today, male collars have been reduced to classic plain lines, while women’s collars are elegantly styled.

The Museum of the Gulf Coast will host an opening of “Woman, the Spirit of the Universe” from 6:30 to 8 p.m. Friday. The exhibit will be on display through May 30.

Johnson is a retired state district judge who lives in the Houston area.