With so much tie-dye on the runways of late, it's fun to explore the history of the technique which spans both the centuries and the globe. The Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco (FAMSF) is investigating the trend in "To Dye For: A World Saturated in Color," a new exhibition opening at the de Young on July 31 which features over 50 textiles and costumes from a variety of cultures and historical periods that include a diverse array of resist-dye examples from Africa, Asia and the Americas.
Tie-dye is just one example of the resist-dye method, an inclusive term used for the process of dyeing textiles to form patterns by preventing dye from reaching specific areas of the cloth. Methods of resist dyeing include tie-dye, stitch-resist, batik or wax-resist dyeing, stencil-resist, mordant-resist, and ikat (warp- or weft-resist dyeing). “To Dye For not only highlights the museum’s impressive permanent collection of textiles, but also shows how cultures across the world have used similar techniques for centuries—with results that are sometimes similar, and at other times startlingly different," explains FAMSF textile curator Jill D’Alessandro. "The end result will be a stunning array of textures, patterns and color.”
Exhibition highlights include:
- a tie-dyed tunic from the Wari-Nasca culture of pre-Hispanic Peru (A.D. 500–900)
- a paste-resist Mongolian felt rug from the 15th–17th centuries
- a group of stitch-resist dyed 20th-century kerchiefs from the Dida people of the Ivory Coast
These historical pieces are contrasted with artworks from contemporary Bay Area artists like Judith Content, Ana Lisa Hedstrom, Angelina DeAntonis and Yoshiko Wada.
Modern fashion examples include an elegant tie-dye evening gown from Rodarte’s 2009 collection and an ikat trench coat from Oscar de La Renta’s 2005 collection, both of which foreshadowed the current spring/summer trend of tribal-infused fashions such as Dries Van Noten’s and Gucci’s ikats and Proenza Schouler’s and Calvin Klein’s tie-dyes.
The exhibition also showcases several pieces from the museum's own collection, including an early-20th-century ikat woven skirt from the Iban people of Sarawak, Malaysia, two exquisite hand-painted and mordant-dyed Indian trade cloths used as heirloom textiles by the Toraja peoples of Sulawesi, Indonesia, and a recently rediscovered ceremonial cloth (kumo) from the T’boli people of Mindanao, Philippines. Measuring 74x84 inches and woven in three panels sewn together, the cloth is made from abaca and dyed with a warp-resist (ikat). Characteristic of the T’boli ikat weaving, the cloth is dyed in a rich and sophisticated color scheme of black and red set off by intricate ikat patterns drawn in the natural abaca. This cloth is part of a larger collection of fine and rare textiles from the Philippines gifted to the museum in 1938; despite being in the collection for over 70 years, this will be the first time this exquisite cloth will be exhibited.
"To Dye For: A World Saturated in Color" is on display from July 31, 2010 through January 9, 2011. FAMSF.org.
TOP - clockwise: Trench coat by Oscar de la Renta, 2005 made from a warp-faced plain weave silk with warp-resist dyeing (ikat) and crocheted synthetic raffia & leather belt; Felt rug from Mongolia, 15th - 17th century - stencil-resist dyed; Woman's silk chapan robe from Bukhara, Uzbekistan, ca. 1860–1870 - warp-faced plain weave & warp-resist dyeing (ikat); Cotton skirt panel (sarong) from Java, Indonesia, ca. 1900 - plain weave & wax-resist dyeing (batik).
MIDDLE: Cotton wall hanging or bedcover (palampore) from India, 18th–19th century plain weave - mordant- and resist-dyeing & painting.
RUNWAY: via style.com
BOTTOM: Marisma "Salt Marsh" Judith Content, 2003 - Thai silk; shibori dyed, discharged, pieced, quilted and appliquéd.
- Lesley Scott