The global thirst for cotton was fueled by the atrocities of the Transatlantic Slave Trade. Anna Arabindan Kesson joins History Is Rarely Black or White curator Jason Cyrus and conservator Anne-Marie Guérin to discuss the ways in which they harnessed science, conservation, and historical research to spotlight the Black life at the core of the Victorian cotton industry.
Anna Arabindan-Kesson is an assistant professor of African American and Black Diasporic art with a joint appointment in the Department of Art and Archaeology and is a faculty fellow at Princeton University. Born in Sri Lanka, she completed undergraduate degrees in New Zealand and Australia and worked as a Registered Nurse in the UK before completing her PhD in African American Studies and Art History at Yale University.
Jason Cyrus analyzes fashion and textile history to explore questions of identity, cultural exchange and agency. He is the 2021 Isabel Bader Fellow in Textile Conservation and Research at the Agnes Etherington Centre, Queens University. This October he will present his research in History Is Rarely Black or White, an exhibition exploring Victorian cotton, slavery, and its ongoing legacies.
Cyrus has a Master’s Degree in Art History and Curatorial Studies from York University and starts his PhD in the History of Art at Warwick University in October 2021. He has held research posts at the Art Gallery of Ontario and the Royal Ontario Museum. In January 2020, he curated York University’s first fashion exhibition, ReFraming Gender.
Cyrus currently lives on land that has been the home of numerous Indigenous Nations, including the Wendat, Haudenosaunee, the Anishinaabek, and most recently the Mississaugas of the Credit First Nation.
Anne-Marie Guérin is an art conservator with a master’s degree in art conservation from Queen’s University (MAC 16). She has worked for several heritage and art institutions including the Montreal Museum of Fine Art and the Canadian Conservation Institute. The interdisciplinary and collaborative aspects of art conservation initially drew Anne-Marie to conservation and are what continues to inform her approach to objects, belongings, and Ancestors currently residing in museums and galleries. Her main interests involve using art conservation, scientific analysis, and historical research to assist in the telling of stories aimed at decolonization.
Examine cotton garments in the Queen’s University Collection of Canadian Dress at Agnes and their connection to the global cotton industry through archival research, artistic intervention, and scientific enquiry.