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Worn In/Worn Out: Soul of the Shoe


Exhibition overview

“I challenge any art lover to love a canvas as much as a fetishist loves a shoe.”
–Georges Bataille

Shoes are our constant connection between our bodies and the world. By physically elevating us from the earth, shoes serve as the bridge between the spheres of the sacred and the profane, and transgress the boundaries of our private and public selves. Throughout our lives, we walk thousands of miles, wearing-in and wearing-out these functional objects of adornment as we navigate our environment and our identities.

As both works of art and mundane necessities, shoes have contained and conveyed many meanings across history and cultures. Shoes have served as markers of humanity, as intimate memorials to the wearer, as surreal absurdities that contort and deform, as beatific works of art and signs of status, as practical objects of protection, as pop cultural icons, as forms of bondage that regulate and control, and as both commodity fetishes and fetish objects of erotic desire.

Featuring the collections of Teri Levin, Amy Ruddick, Joseph Herring, Nathaniel Johnston, Taylor Battiste, the University of West Florida Historic Collections, and works of art by contemporary artists Malika Green, Mike Bourscheid, and Lenka Clayton, this exhibition features a sweeping presentation of footwear that includes examples of high fashion and design, sneaker culture, streetwear and drop culture, vernacular and historical shoes, and conceptual, performative, and surrealist shoe art. By exploring artistic interpretations of shoes, the nature of collecting, the closet as a critical form, as well as the process and materiality of shoes in our interactive gallery, Made to Last: A Shoe Makerspace, the exhibition Worn In / Worn Out: Soul of the Shoe attends to shoes as earthly icons and sacred spaces of adornment that embody fashion, design, consumerism and consumption, personal expression, choice and control, and the aesthetics of the social and the everyday.

Note: In support of shoe-distributing nonprofit Soles4Souls, bring in a gently worn pair of shoes for free entry into the museum all summer.