The beautiful kimono that has been hanging on my wall since our return from Japan had lately been enticing me more and more to deconstruct it. In my mind I was sewing marvelous scarves with the large areas of vibrant red-orange shibori and the black shiboried pine trees against the swath of white, the delicate passages of gold seigaiha waves. It was not until I received a spectacular vintage Taisho kimono (from 1912-1925) that I could not ever imagine altering in any way that these scarves became reality and my wall has a magnificent new hanging. I think you can see in the details that the rinzu woven into the silk is an exotic pattern of cranes.
I really have neglected this blog for far too long. I promise more words of wisdom–of sorts–for my not quite new year’s resolution. I have been tooling away on my sewing machine hoping that my beautiful Japanese kimono scarves will make a big splash this Christmas season. Etsy tells me I can embed some here in ubaguito.us for the perusal of anyone who visits. And Voila!
The kimono arrived–promptly, as I have come to expect of Ichiroya. It is all that I could have wished for; it is so beautiful. From the full kimono picture, it is difficult to see all the wonderful shibori and subtly-dyed detail, but it is a joy to look at, to examine, and to discover new nuances of pattern and design. The color is more vibrant than the image from which I ordered the kimono, but I was already certain, from experience, that it would be the case. The close-up is only a small segmentof the design but it is possible to see the variety of ways in which the shibori has been used. I have always been fascinated with shibori; in case I haven’t already explained, shibori is shaped-resist dying that has been used for many centuries in many countries, Japan being perhaps the foremost.
Because they knew of my interest, Andrew and Linda, my son and daughter-in-law gave me this wonderful volume on shibori that I have had sitting in a prominent place and have probably perused and oohed and aahed over only once or twice since I received it. Last night, having hung the kimono in its place of honor, I brought out the book again and I was blown away. The part of the shibori story that I have been planning to tell is my discovery in the Museum of Kyoto of contemporary uses of this ancient artform, in other words, Shibori Now, which just happens to be the subtitle of the book. I bought these beautiful scarves in Kyoto as gifts and Brent bought the single one for me.
I have written much about my working with traditional Japanese patterns and deconstructed kimonos, a search that has taken many hours of my retirement–a joyous search, I might add, because I have always been fascinated with the Japanese aesthetic. I can probably trace that passion back to the Boston Museum of Fine Arts and one of the finest collections I know of Japanese art and design. Mass Art was just a stone’s throw away and the teachers there were fond of using the Museum’s collection as source material for assignments. I can even remember a fabric design–probably my first–using the ubiquitous stylized waves of Japanese art. So I was excited that a major exhibition of “Kosode: Haute Coutoure Kimonos of the Edo Period“ would be at the Suntory Museum in Tokyo when we were there. While we were in Kyoto, we had visited the textile museum and arrived in time to see a fashion show of contemporary kimonos which, while pretty, were less than awe-inspiring. Most of the kimonos sold on Ichiroya‘s web site–and certainly many of those I had bought in order to deconstruct them–were far more compelling. Continue reading
The latest show at the Museum of Modern Art in New York–MoMa–is called Color Chart, Reinventing Color, 1950 to Today. It is based on the idea of the color wheel, a staple of school art rooms and art schools for ever, it seems, and centers on the experiments of artists with color, many in the 1960s and 1970s when I was going to graduate school and teaching these new ideas about the use of color. To call it a reinvention, however, is simply wrong.
It is always interesting to me to see by what criteria works/artists are chosen to be in the exhibition and how well the curators fulfill their mission. Their purported “theme” encompasses artists who used “color as a mass-produced and standardized commercial product…the lush beauty that results when contemporary artists assign color decisions to chance, readymade source, or arbitrary system.” This, then, included, notably, several variations of works consisting of color swatches tacked to the wall, with and without color names; and Andy Warhol‘s silk-screened Marilyns in several color combinations and variations on that particular theme including a room of Dan Flavin‘s Neon light sculptures and On Karawa‘s Dates in various colors. OK so far, but could the newly acquired Rauschenberg fit the criteria, or the several large bi-color canvasses (I wasn’t reading all the wall text), the combinations of which appeared to be anything but arbitrary or readymade?
It did get me thinking about color particularly because I have been working so closely with the refined Japanese sense of color. In my deconstructing post, I promised a larger version of the deconstruction of the wonderful purple kimono with its brilliant vermilion lining. I was lucky enough to have in my reserved for later purchase file, this fantastic vermilion fabric (luckier still that nobody had bought it) and the results are here. As with the Mark Rothko (not included in the MoMa Show) pictured next to the scarf, the colors are electric, and never arbitrary.
It seems to me, after years of teaching about art and the isms–postmodernism, poststructuralism, deconstructionism–that, in my retirement, I continue to deconstruct, in a myriad of ways. To the poststructuralist, the text is anything that can be read: interpreted; understood; written. According to Harvey [Harvey, D. (1989). Postmodernism, the condition of Postmodernity (pp. 39-65). Cambridge, Massachusetts: Basil Blackwell], “the deconstructionist impulse is to look inside one text for another, dissolve one text into another, or build one text into another.” My kimonos have become my text to deconstruct, to look inside one text for another, dissolve one text into another, and, ultimately to add new meaning–to build one text into another.
It was this particular kimono, the first pre-WWII piece I had purchased, that had my head filled with its complex meanings. Unlike many of my finished de/reconstructions, I wanted to keep this intact, to preserve its one-ness. Rather than treating the text as one to be lost in the intertext, I awoke one morning with the thought of preserving its meaning, while at the same time, giving it new form. The brilliant red lining identifies its particular history. The skinny scarf is the experiment; a larger version will follow.
I may have said this before, but every day I am delighted and amazed anew by the wealth of colors and designs and the sheer beauty of the marvelous silks available from Japan for designing my new scarves. I take great pleasure in carefully choosing from the hundreds, perhaps more, of kimono and fabrics and discerning which ones will be the most versatile–will be able to blend with several others in order to be combined in a myriad of ways; which will provide the greatest amount of variety within the same piece; which will yield the greatest amount of continuous fabric without waste. This is a learning process, learning not simply by trial and error although, of course that is necessarily part of the process, but by beginning to understand the terms and what they mean. Today I await the arrival of a piece that has all the most desirable elements: karinui; furisode; rinzu; yuzen. Let me explain what the words mean and how that adds up to perfection for my purposes. Continue reading
It is always interesting to sit back, step out of myself and observe. This morning at about 1:00 a.m., I returned to the coffee table where I had laid out fabric combinations for four new bags–in quiltspeak, it is called “auditioning.” Continue reading