June 10, 2024

Bertacini's handbag design collection debuts at exhibition

Rafael Bertacini, a master’s student in the Department of Textiles, Merchandising and Fashion Design at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln, created a collection of six artistic handbags that is on display at Gwendolyn Newkirk Human Sciences Building this summer.

Influenced by his queerness and neurodivergent perspective, Bertacini’s creative works have been marked by his fascination with the material essence of objects. This culminated in his Master of Arts project with the handbags exploring artistic meanings and symbolic functions, weaving a narrative that encapsulates his experiences as a queer man.

The exhibition, “Beyond Boundaries: Handbags as Narrative of Divergent-Self and Identity,” explores various aspects of fashion, identity, and symbols.

“The collection is dedicated to storytelling, with each handbag serving as a testament to my journey of self-discovery and healing,” Bertacini said. “The collection is also divided into three acts: Setup, Confrontation, and Resolution, with each act presenting a sub-collection that reflects my personal and professional journey.”

The first act, Setup, includes “The Best Little Boy” and “Divergent Existence,” which delve into Bertacini’s childhood experiences and self-perception as a neurodivergent individual. “The Best Little Boy” uses visual metaphors to depict the pressure to excel and conform, symbolized by a paper envelope handbag adorned with metal spikes and a barbed wire strap. “Divergent Existence” represents the discomfort of living an inauthentic life. This design features a 3D-printed structure embellished with red velvet and metal spikes, symbolizing the pain and protective barriers built around Bertacini’s identity.

The second act, Confrontation, includes the “Overthinking” and “Unraveling” handbags, which highlight Bertacini’s mental and emotional challenges. “Overthinking” is represented by a spherical handbag covered in black zip ties, embodying the chaos and restriction of anxious thoughts. The “Unraveling” handbag, with its intricate paracord wrapping, symbolizes untangling and understanding these emotions.

In the final act, Resolution, the “Metamorphosis” and “Healing” handbags reflect the culmination of Bertacini’s journey toward self-acceptance and emotional healing. “Metamorphosis” draws inspiration from the transformation of a caterpillar into a butterfly, featuring a transparent 3D-printed structure with spikes symbolizing the pain and beauty of growth. “Healing,” inspired by the symbiotic relationship between clownfish and anemones, uses glow-in-the-dark silicone tubes to represent his journey toward embracing and overcoming past traumas.

The exhibition, curated in four hallway cases in TMFD, follows the narrative structure of the collection. Each case provides a thematic and chronological exploration of Bertacini’s journey, inviting visitors to engage with the deeper meaning behind each piece. His collection was supported by his adviser, Assistant Professor Michael Burton, along with committee members and Associate Professors Mary Alice Casto and Sandra Starkey.

“This exhibition is a testament to artistic expression’s power in conveying complex human experiences,” Bertacini said. “My academic background equips me with a systemic view of design projects and a creative ability to propose innovative solutions at various stages of development. My expertise in representation and visual production techniques enables me to articulate metaphorical concepts through my designs.”