Ascending the regal staircase of what was once Andrew Carnegie’s mansion, I fear for a moment I may be trespassing in an affluent Upper East Sider’s residence. But upstairs the dimly lit halls are quiet, lined with samples of curtains and clothing, glinting behind glass. A little red loom sits alone in a room.

The second floor of New York’s Cooper Hewitt Museum hosts A Dark, a Light, a Bright: The Designs of Dorothy Liebes, the first retrospective of the iconic midcentury textile artist and entrepreneur.

Wandering through the quiet aisles, I peer into the folds of tall, shimmering drapes, scouring the edges of fabrics for a confession. My gaze follows reeds and fibers across the material, arriving at a hodgepodge of contrasting textures. The work’s impressive effect is the result of an intricate network of aesthetic and technical decisions. Frays and folds illuminate the delicate patterns by which textiles shape a room, a body, an era. On view until February 4, the exhibition is a Lurex-gilded gateway to the transformative power of textiles.

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