Water, whether we really notice it or not, is involved quite a lot in art. For potters, water is an integral part of making plates, bowls and jugs on their wheels. For painters, mixing pigment with a water or oil mixture is necessary to create landscapes or portraits—for watercolorists, that goes without saying, obviously. But I’d also like to make mention of another art-form that requires water and copious amounts of it: tie-dye.
Making patterns on cloth through the use of dyes isn’t an uncommon or new practice—in fact, some of the earliest forms of tie-dye originated in Egypt and India—albeit not often seen in everyday fashion. Tie-dye really took off in American culture during the period between the late 1960s and the early 1970s. Musicians such as the Grateful Dead and Janis Joplin brought the “psychedelic” spirals and other designs to the forefront of the hippie movement, making it an icon for the youth of the nation to associate with their ideas of peace and love.
With all the hustle and bustle of the world and the focus on new technology and the stuffiness of more modern art, the humble form of tie-dye has begun to fade from view, save for the occasional costume party where a “hippie” makes an appearance for the cameras. But really, dyeing twisted cloth can be quite therapeutic—at least, for me it is. Focusing on which colors to dunk a section of your shirt in tends to make the mind blot out almost every other outside stimulus. Turn off the iPhone, let the computer hibernate, play some relaxing music, have a few friends over and have a tie-dye party. Doing something like that—looking at the hues and shapes that you made—makes you see a burst of your own creativity instead of keeping a lid on it for work.
Or, if you want to challenge yourself with cloth and dye, combine rich colors with a manual wax-resist dyeing technique and make some batik—the museum happens to have a prime example of it in the permanent collection, thanks to Leo Twiggs.
|Leo Twiggs: Georgia II|
Tie-dye or batik: it’s a form of art anyone can do—you don’t have to remember dimension or shading; there’s no structural weakness to account for; you can let loose with an art that’s just good, clean (if you take the necessary precautions) fun. And who doesn’t want some of that every now and then?