Having been invited to see the new To Dye For exhibit at the de Young museum, I was expecting a gallery of tie dye displays similar to the sights I see while walking down Haight Street. That was not the case; in fact, I was blown away by the history and artful techniques that have been used throughout the centuries and all around the world, including our very own Bay Area.
By weaving through the glass boxes filled with complex designs worn by far-off cultures, I realized there was more to tie dye than attacking a white shirt with rubber bands and dumping it into a bowl. Actually, there are four different ways to give a garment that multicolored essence: stitch-resist, ikat, proto ikat and space resist—all of which are presented and explained at the de Young.
Displayed are pieces created as far back as the 1860s and as faraway as Central Asia. Pieces worn by cultures in their most sacred of ceremonies are wonderfully contrasted with recent pieces such as a 2005 Oscar de la Renta trench coat and a 2009 silk evening dress by U.C Berkeley alumni sisters Laura and Kate Mulleavy of Rodarte.
My favorite? The Coca-Cola Kimono (1975) by Bay Area artist Yoshiko I. Wada, who intricately resist-dyed the piece several times to display the famous classic logo. Other exhibited local designers and artists are Barbara Shapiro and Ana Lisa Hedstrom.
I left the de Young inspired by the many fascinating forms of tie dye textiles that pieces are, indeed, to-die-for and together form an exhibit well worth seeing.
See the exhibit for yourself at the de Young between now and January 9th, 2011.
Photo: Chapan robe, Uzbekistan, Bukhara ca. 1860–1870. Courtesy of the de Young