‘Woven Treasures,’ Professor Ira Spars’ Personal Collection on Display

Photo by Nicole Williams

This past Wednesday, the opening reception of “Woven Treasures: Selections from the Collection of Ira and Rebecca Spar” was held in the Pascal Gallery. The gallery, which runs through Dec. 12, featured an array of art including costumes, santons, foreign hats and textiles.

The gallery attracted faculty, students and Mahwah residents interested in a cultural exhibit. The Spars, one of whom is a Ramapo professor, showcased pieces from their personal collection for the enjoyment of the public. Attendees gathered around Spar as he gave a tour of the gallery starting with the clothing from Provence and making his way around the space. He shared insight to the significance of the selections as well as personal stories and reasoning behind why he and his wife accumulate these types of artifacts.

“We have traveled all over the Near East, North Africa and Southern France in search of handcrafted textiles and have purchased works by women and men whose creativity has so captured our imagination. The presence of their work has brought constant joy to our home” said Spar.

The Provençal garments were adorned onto mannequins and were from the time of the French Revolution in the 19th century. The outfits would have been seen in villages and towns in France. Each component of the outfits was carefully explained by Spar. 

The second portion of the gallery was dedicated to 21 santons, also known as little saints. The dolls were created by one of the most regarded santonniers, Simone Jouglas, whose best work was done in the 1940s before she became renowned enough to delegate her work to assistants. She used 18th century French fabrics to dress the figurines while the faces were painted by hand. The purpose of the santons was originally to represent holy people or religious figures in the community, but eventually this practice shifted to characterize the local townspeople. The dolls in Spar’s collection are each marked by a certain profession, demonstrative of the roles people used to play in societies.

Spar also touched on how he selects textiles that he eventually went on to purchase. “Smilability: does it make you happy? Then there’s touchability and the feeling that someone had connection with that textile and you’re with that person from the past.”

Tribal headdresses from Africa as well as various hats from Asia took up the majority of the third portion of the gallery. Hats in other places around the world hold much greater meaning than they do in the United States; they are signifiers of class, social standing and age.

The Pascal Gallery will be open Tuesday through Friday, affording anyone interested in handcrafted artwork from around the world the opportunity to enjoy the concise assemblage.