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Oscar Winner's Costume Design Work Comes to Roanoke's Taubman Museum

Black Panther.jpg
Jeff Bossert
Radio IQ
Carter's work on the Marvel Film Black Panther earned her an Oscar. She's the first African-American to win the award for Costume Design.

Roanoke’s Taubman Museum of Art is giving movie fans a chance to see how costumes develop the story. More than 60 outfits designed by an Oscar winner are now on display.

The Taubman is the first stop for a traveling exhibition. 'Ruth E. Carter: Afrofutureism in Costume Design' opens Saturday, highlighting her more than thirty years in designing outfits for film.

A graduate of Hampton University, her work includes the early films of director Spike Lee, including Do The Right Thing and Malcolm X, to the Marvel movie Black Panther with Chadwick Boseman, for which she won an Academy Award, and this year’s Coming 2 America with Eddie Murphy. In 2019, she made history as the first African-American to win the Oscar for Best Costume Design. Other credits include the historical drama Selma, Steven Spielberg's Amistad, and numerous TV productions.

Carter had set out to be an actor when attending Hampton University, but a twist of fate led to her success.

"She didn't get cast in a play, and the director asked if she wanted to do the costumes instead, and the rest of history," said Julia Long, the exhibition curator. "She was doing theater, she was doing opera, she did dance costumes. And it was really Spike Lee who encouraged her to go into film, and there she mostly ended up staying. So in many ways, you could say that her film career might not have happened in the way that it did without those collaborations."

Carter's Costumes from Spike Lee's Movie Do The Right Thing
Jeff Bossert
(Radio IQ)
Carter's costumes for the 1989 Spike Lee Film Do The Right Thing. She's collaborated with the director on 10 of his films.

“There’s so much to learn about Ruth, and I keep finding out new moments in her creative process every day, and think that’s what we wish also for the visitor," said Taubman Museum Executive Director Cindy Petersen.

Carter will be at the Taubman for the exhibition's opening weekend Saturday, November 13, but the exhibit itself opens Sunday. On display through April 3, will display more than 60 costumes. It will include a digital guide for visitors, to hear Carter telling stories about making these films, along with clips of the films themselves.

Carter was featured in the Netflix documentary series Abstract: The Art of Design, which chronicles her efforts to research a film's characters and how clothing will help tell a story.

"What kinds of relationships do (costume designers) have with the director, producer, the actors, and then, with the audience," Long said. "We’re really working to build the exhibition so that - augmenting the costumes themselves, and complimenting them, is a little bit more information about this behind the scenes world that a lot of people aren’t aware of."

The Taubman exhibit, on display through April 3, will include a digital guide for visitors, to hear Carter telling stories about making these films, along with clips of the films themselves.

Her future credits include the sequel Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, due out in 2022.

Jeff Bossert comes to Radio IQ with over 20 years of reporting and hosting experience, primarily with NPR member stations, including WKNO in Memphis, and most recently, Illinois Public Media/WILL in Urbana, Illinois. A big advocate for professional development, Jeff served on the Illinois News Broadcasters Association Board of Directors.
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