Ruth E. Carter Exhibit

Movie costumes showcase a master designer’s four decades of passion.

Colin Douglas Gray

SCAD Atlanta – Winter 2021 – Exhibitions – Ruth E. Carter – “Afrofuturism in Costume Design” – Documentation – SCADFash – Photography Courtesy of SCAD

(Taubman Museum; photo courtesy of Scad)

Academy Award-winning costume designer Ruth E. Carter has worked on more than 60 films and television projects. Her ensembles can be seen in blockbusters and history-inspired movies like Black Panther, Coming 2 America, Selma, and Do the Right Thing.

(Photo courtesy of Scad)

A graduate of Hampton University, Carter has transformed Hollywood’s top actors through costume, enabling them to fully immerse themselves in groundbreaking roles—from Oprah Winfrey’s turn as Annie Lee Cooper in Selma to Denzel Washington’s portrayal of Malcolm X, and Chadwick Boseman’s performance as King of Wakanda in Black Panther. Carter credits Hampton University’s Theatre Arts program with introducing her to the wonder of costume design. In February 2021, she became only the second costume designer to receive a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame—the first being Edith Head, who received the honor in 1960.

Carter says having her exhibit’s premier at Roanoke’s Taubman Museum of Art “has been incredibly heartfelt for me,” because “Virginia is my ancestral home.” There until April 3, “Afrofuturism in Costume Design,” features four decades of Carter’s work, complemented by original comic-book style murals from Atlanta-based artist, Brandon Sadler, whose work can be spotted inBlack Panther. The collection is part of Taubman’s ongoing series of design-focused exhibits titled “Fashioning the Future.” On the big screen, Carter’s costumes become part of the narrative, but when visitors view them in a museum, meticulous details that align to create each character can be fully appreciated in person.

“It’s such a phenomenal exhibition,” says Sunny Nelson, Taubman’s deputy director of marketing. “We’ve actually had guests cry when they walk into the gallery. They’re so overwhelmed with how beautiful—and personally meaningful—the costumes are.”

The exhibit brings decades of Carter’s costumes together to great effect, allowing each piece to speak individually while capturing the extraordinary impact of an artist whose work—whether we knew it or not—we’ve been admiring all along.

Konstantin Rega
A graduate of East Anglia’s renowned Creative Writing MA, Konstantin’s been published by the Richmond Times-Dispatch, Poetry Salzburg Review,, the Republic of Consciousness Prize (etc.). He contributes to Publisher Weekly and Treblezine.
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