A kimono means so much more than a robe.
More than its value as an artwork, it symbolizes various statements for both men and women.
Myrtle Beachs art museum has gotten dressed up this summer with Japanese-themed displays of elaborate garments and 3-D paper carvings.
Kimono: Art, Fashion and Society is exhibited at the Franklin G. Burroughs-Simeon B. Chapin Art Museum in Myrtle Beach. Visiting from the collections home base at the Morikami Museum and Japanese Gardens in Delray Beach, Fla., guest curator Susanna LaVallee said Myrtle Beach marks its only tour, continuing through Sept. 23.
LaVallee said to look at kimonos as a matter of manners and emblems of a culture from more than 10 centuries ago. A woman dons a robe at a formal occasion or feast to help express her identity, and the arms tell it all. Long sleeves and more decorative designs designate an unmarried lady, and short sleeves, with more neutral colors, reflect her wedded status.
Standing by some bridal overgarments for kimonos, LaVallee said they often bears cranes and an abundance of flowers from all seasons to signify a long life and fertility, respectively.
While looking at 15 kimonos on display, viewers should notice how fabric, dye technique, weaving and painting of designs give each outfit its own personality, LaVallee said.
Kimonos convey social customs that differ from the West in how a woman seeks to stand out. The garments all give a padded waistline, for a common, covered, cylindrical figure, LaVallee said, so that no woman looks too thin or large. A man will have to look for the sexy and feminine body characteristics by how the womans hair is tied up to expose her neck and from the kimono as a work of art, with each wearers chosen colors, textures, patterns and motifs.
This is the focus, LaVallee said, not the shape or the body. The garment calls attention to the garment itself, not the person.
Tying an obi, or sash, around the waist several times into a bow in back also hides the body curves. A courtesan, or high-ranking entertainer of men, would tie the obi in front, though, and wear a louder lacquer and comb in her hair, LaVallee said.
Even little girls like to make their mark simply with fashion statements in their kimonos, bringing embroidered butterflies to flutter in their fabrics.
Another Japanese-inspired exhibit in the museum upstairs through Sept. 16 At First Light: The Katagami Sculpture of Jennifer Falck Linssen, dives into the details of intricate stencil art.
A wall card for a work called Wind Swept reflects Linssens global take on air currents: The wind is a continual marker of the world in flux.
Written in the Stars covers a whole wall in a line, like little links loosening as the viewer scans it from left to right. Linssens statement nearby reads that knots bind and connect, but loosened, they reveal ... a snapshot of progress in humans self-actualization.