Lotus Shoes: Stories between Stitches

New exhibition at the Tang Teaching Museum explores how Chinese women expressed themselves through shoes for bound feet

SARATOGA SPRINGS, NY (August 24, 2022) — The Frances Young Tang Teaching Museum and Art Gallery at Skidmore College presents a new exhibition of work from the Tang collection being shown at the museum for the first time, Lotus Shoes: Stories between Stitches, on view from Saturday, September 3, through Sunday, December 4, 2022.

Organized by Madeleine Ward-Schultz ’22, the 2021-22 Charina Endowment Fund Endowed Intern at the Tang, the exhibition features a selection of shoes for bound feet from the Tang collection in conversation with a contemporary artwork by Lillian Mulero. While the Chinese tradition of foot-binding is familiar to audiences in the West, the practice by women of using the shoes as a means of self-expression may not be.

Shoes for bound feet, or lotus shoes, were worn by Chinese women from the Song Dynasty (960–1279) to the early twentieth century. Women tightly wrapped their 6- to 8-year-old daughters’ feet into a “lotus” shape by folding the four toes under the arch, halting development; the painful and repeated re-forming of the foot achieved a higher, bulging instep and elongated appearance from big toe to heel, necessitating a teetering gait that was considered fashionable and attractive. The foot-binding ritual, practiced entirely in women’s quarters within a patriarchal society, was considered a pathway for young girls to secure their future by marrying into wealthier families.

Lotus Shoes: Stories between Stitches explores how women expressed themselves creatively through individualized, unique shoes with vivid hues and intricate embroidery. The exhibition encourages viewers to consider their own reactions to societal standards, asking: What do we maintain, adopt, and reject in order to navigate our world? And how do the objects we make, wear, and use tell stories about who we are and who we want to be?

The exhibition marks the latest in the museum’s long tradition of student-organized shows and is the capstone project of Ward-Schultz’s yearlong pre-professional internship. The exhibition is supported by the Friends of the Tang and the Carter-Rodriguez Fund for Student-Curated Programs.

Ward-Schultz will give a public tour of the exhibition on Saturday, September 3, at 1 pm. Admission to the tour is free.

The Tang is open to the public Thursdays from noon to 9 pm, and Fridays through Sundays from noon to 5 pm. For more information, please contact the Visitors Services Desk at 518-580-8080 or tang@skidmore.edu, or visit the Tang website at https://tang.skidmore.edu.

About the Tang Teaching Museum

The Tang Teaching Museum at Skidmore College is a pioneer of interdisciplinary exploration and learning. A cultural anchor of New York’s Capital Region, the Tang’s approach has become a model for college and university art museums across the country—with exhibition programs that bring together visual and performing arts with interdisciplinary ideas from history, economics, biology, dance, and physics, to name just a few. The Tang has one of the most rigorous faculty-engagement initiatives in the nation, and a robust publication and touring exhibition program that extends the museum’s reach far beyond its walls. The Tang Teaching Museum’s award-winning building, designed by architect Antoine Predock, serves as a visual metaphor for the convergence of art and ideas. The Museum is open to the public on Thursday from noon to 9 pm and Friday through Sunday from noon to 5 pm The Museum is a Blue Star Museum, offering free admission to active military and their families this summer through Labor Day. https://tang.skidmore.edu

Pattern by Jonnea Herman ’18
Inspired by the annual February Tang <3 Students Event
The Tang Pattern Project celebrates the Museum’s 20th anniversary. Organized by Head of Design Jean Tschanz-Egger, past and current Tang Design Interns created patterns inspired by the Museum’s exhibition and event history.