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‘Everybody’s Bolos’ Exhibition Redefines Adornment and Identity at UNT

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The College of Visual Arts and Design (CVAD) at the University of North Texas is hosting a unique exhibition titled “Everybody’s Bolos,” which showcases 30 bolo ties crafted by contemporary artists. The exhibit opens on February 6 and will run until May 10 at the CVAD Gallery in Denton, Texas. This traveling exhibition, co-organized by UNT Professor Ana M. Lopez, aims to explore the cultural history, significance, and expressive potential of the bolo tie, particularly its relevance as a gender-neutral form of personal adornment.

Ana M. Lopez, who teaches metalsmithing and jewelry at UNT, describes the bolo tie as a liminal object that blurs the traditional boundaries between necklaces and neckties. Historically associated with masculine gender, the bolo tie has been worn by individuals of multiple gender identities, challenging and expanding beyond stereotypical limitations through craft. The exhibition delves into the bolo tie’s affiliation with marginalized communities, including Native American cultures and LGBTQ+ communities, highlighting its role in expressing identity and challenging norms.

The exhibit is partially the result of Lopez’s research on bolo ties, spurred by an inquiry from then-post-baccalaureate student Hannah Reynoso Toussaint, which led Lopez to the Heard Museum in Phoenix, Arizona, to study their collection. This research uncovered the bolo tie’s deep roots in Native American culture and its adoption by diverse communities.

“Everybody’s Bolos” was co-organized with Brian Fleetwood, a citizen of the Muscogee Nation of Oklahoma and assistant professor at the Institute of American Indian Arts, and Toussaint, now a metalsmith and craft artist. Each organizer invited 10 artists to contribute to the exhibition, creating a diverse array of bolo ties that challenge conventional views on gender and adornment.

The public is invited to an opening reception on February 8, and a symposium scheduled for February 24 will offer further insights into the themes of the exhibition. Registration is required for the symposium, which promises to extend the conversation on the cultural and expressive significance of the bolo tie.

“Everybody’s Bolos” not only celebrates the bolo tie as an artistic and cultural object but also serves as a platform for questioning and reevaluating historical narratives and gender constructs. Following its stint in Texas, the exhibition is set to travel to the Fuller Craft Museum in Massachusetts in 2025, further spreading its message of inclusivity and the reexamination of cultural history.

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