Thursday, January 30, 2014

Back in the studio at Sanskriti...

The trip to and from Jaipur was what did it. All that local color, the markets, the painted trucks along the highway, the beautiful Hindi script everywhere mashed up with ads for Pepsi, Vodaphone and Airtel. I came back to Sanskriti with all that color and all those baroque Indian shapes in my head.

Market stalls and a plethora of everything.


Fancy, hand-customized trucks.

Acres and acres of mustard fields on the way to Jaipur.



Each piece, 20" x 16", began with a paint spill on Mylar, cut out and glued to a sheet of Rives BFK. After that, the colors and shapes of what I'd seen started to emerge onto paper. If you see animals and people, strange birds, monkeys, and dancers, yes, they are all there somewhere.

Here are a few of the pieces I completed, and in some ways I know they are just a beginning.The possibilities are endless! The series is tentatively called "Passing Strange".









Printing and Natural Dyeing on Fabric in Jaipur

It was chilly. About 55 degrees F. and there they were, standing barefoot and completely drenched in the dye water. It's the real thing... human labor, not machines, stamping resist patterns onto yards of cloth, then dyeing the cloth in natural dyes like indigo (from plants) and iron oxide (from rusted metal). But what beautiful results.

This is how fabric is dyed with indigo - large cement vats outside the main building.





The stamp mud resist process (or dabu) involves a carved wooden block that is dipped into a water soluble resin. While it is still wet, fine dried mud is sprinkled onto it to prevent the dye from seeping beneath the pattern. The fabric is then dyed, and afterwards, the resin and mud mixture is washed away, revealing the natural fabric color beneath.


Handcarved wood blocks create the printed fabrics. A lot of fabric is silkscreened as well, but we did not see that process in action.



Fabric designs are covered with dried  mud in preparation for another color bath.


Outside the buildings, long sari fabrics in jewel like colors dried in the breeze.











Visiting Paper and Textile Factories in Jaipur

Sanskriti Kendra is an oasis amidst the chaos that is Delhi. It is an enclave of small museums and terraced desert gardens dotted with residences for artists and writers built for the summer heat. Thick walls and shaded courtyards graced with bougainvillea make for a lovely setting.


BUT - it is hard to leave on a whim. A woman alone can not just walk to the local cafe or get a drink at the corner restaurant. There is a quiet road leading to the superhighway to Delhi, but watch out for the monkeys! I was actually surrounded by some angry monkey moms who thought I was threatening their babies. The facial expression on one of them did not leave me wondering if I should hang around a bit longer! I began to feel a bit trapped and really needed to grab some friends and go into Delhi or take a field trip.

Fortunately, my friends Anne and Hartash scheduled a field trip to Jaipur, about 7 hours by car from Delhi. Jaipur is the heart of north Indian textiles and papermaking. We were very fortunate to visit several factories and watch the process. We might as well have been in the 18th century. Hard physical labor and painstaking hand work which would cost a fortune here in the first world is available at a fraction of the cost in India.


Paper is made from cotton scrap, recycled clothing and other fabric. It is separated by hand, then made into paper pulp. Dye is added for stunning color. Each sheet of paper is made by sifting water from a layer of pulp that is collected onto a screen. It takes two men to quickly dip and then dump the completed sheet of paper onto a stack. Paper is dried outside usually, since this is typically a very dry climate (except during the summer monsoon season.)





An installation all by itself, right? Lines of gorgeous colored paper hung up to dry.



Ideas emerge

Ok, so India, northern India, specifically Delhi, is a lot to take in. Speaking for myself, my soft American psyche was a little overwhelmed by, well, everything! The crowds, the smoky air, the language gap, the amount of sensory input, the food, the traffic, and the incredible beauty of so much that I saw as well. Truly, I saw cows, monkeys, pigs, and stray dogs grazing for food among the trash in the traffic intersections. How do you even wrap your head around that one?

But I came here in part to make some art, and I needed a focus. At the Sanskriti museum, there happened to be a wonderful exhibition of shadow puppets, painted on stretched and cured goatskins. I was immediately drawn to them because of their shapes. The puppets depict Hindu gods and goddesses, animals, and what all, very fancifully painted and often quite large. That was it. That worked with my interest in shape. And then it all came together for me.

Here are some of the puppets.