Ways of the Designer: Betty Odle and the Wayanas

Early in 1969 then Cranbrook Institute of Science Director Warren Wittry gave exhibits designer, Betty Odle, an assignment to “design and build an exhibit on the Wayana Indian tribe of French Guiana and Suriname of northeast South America.” Odle and assistant Stella Toland worked over seven months to transform Caucasian store mannequins into the native Wayana people. Odle created the facial features, coloring, and anatomy from studies of photographs taken by explorer Art Erickson who lived with the Wayanas during his expedition to French Guiana.

Betty Odle adjusts a wig on a Wayana figure, Aug 1969. Cranbrook Archives.

Betty Odle adjusts a wig on a Wayana figure, 12 Aug 1969. Cranbrook Archives.

Creative modifications were necessary to create an accurate depiction of the Wayanas. Odle and Toland spent hours applying paper mache and plasticine to the bodies of the mannequins. Modeling clay was used to shape the faces before oil paint was applied to complete the finest details. The exhibit, “Ways of the Wayana,” opened in October 1969 and included a recreation of the “Wasp Mat Ceremony” with Odle’s life-size figures.

Betty Odle sits with the Wayanas she created, Sep 1969. Cranbrook Archives.

Betty Odle sits with the Wayanas she created, 10 Sep 1969. Cranbrook Archives.

Odle received high praise for the accuracy in her work by Erickson. Her work as the exhibits designer at the Institute spanned from 1959-1985. In 1984 she received Cranbrook’s Founder’s Medal for her many contributions to Cranbrook Educational Community.

Gina Tecos, Archivist

Advertisements

One thought on “Ways of the Designer: Betty Odle and the Wayanas

  1. Pingback: Photo Friday: Documenting Exhibitions Across Campus | Cranbrook Kitchen Sink

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Create a free website or blog at WordPress.com.

%d bloggers like this: