For most of human history, the colors used in art, craft, and materials of all sorts were derived from plants, minerals, and insects. Since the industrial revolution, however, synthetic dyes and colors tailored for specific materials have been the norm. In recent years, the craft world has seen a renewed interest in natural dyes, and they are now the subject of a new exhibition at the Penland Gallery titled Further Evidence: The Art of Natural Dyes. This riot of color will be on display through July 14, with an opening reception from 4:30-6:30 PM on Saturday, June 15.
Curator Catharine Ellis explains that the recent interest in natural dyes has been inspired by the local food movement, by an interest in personal and environmental safety, and by an increased scientific and technical understanding of dye processes and materials. Ellis is a weaver and textile designer based in Waynesville, NC and is the co-author, with textile engineer Joy Boutrup, of a recent book titled The Art and Science of Natural Dyes. The Penland Gallery exhibition brings this book to life with innovative, colorful work in cloth, tapestry, and paper.
Many of the pieces incorporate various approaches to shaped-resist dying or shibori, techniques that can create patterns after the cloth has been woven or patterns that are embedded in the individual threads before they are put on the loom. Two pieces in the show include words that are part of the woven design. Other works have designs and imagery created through tapestry weaving, stenciling, stitching, or piece work.
A series of remarkable wall pieces by noted shibori artist Ana Lisa Hedstrom were made by folding paper, dying it in indigo, and then unfolding and flattening to reveal geometric patterns in blue. An installation by ink maker Tim McLaughlin display materials and tools used for ink production along with glass vials of ink and journal pages written in extraordinary script with a fountain pen. The whole exhibition is a testament to the commitment this group of artists has to understanding and creating art with the colors of nature.
Running concurrently with this exhibition is a smaller Focus Gallery show of functional pottery by former Penland resident artist Shoko Teruyama, whose work is ornately shaped and patterned in vivid colors. The Visitors Center Gallery has an ongoing display of objects that illuminate the history of Penland School, and the Lucy Morgan Gallery presents a selection of work by dozens of Penland-affiliated artists. On display outside the Penland Gallery are large steel sculptures by Daniel T. Beck and Hoss Haley. There is also an interactive, outdoor installation by Jeff Goodman titled The Kindness for Imaginary Things.
The Penland Gallery and Visitors Center is open Tuesday through Saturday, 10:00 AM-5:00 PM and Sunday, Noon-5:00 PM; it is closed on Mondays. For more information visit penland.org/gallery.