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Krannert Art Museum opens exhibitions on indigo, Japanese art, faculty work

Indigo-dyed felted stones
Photo courtesy
Krannert Art Museum

This series of indigo-dyed felted stones was created by textile artist Rowland Ricketts, inspired by his years as an apprentice with indigo workers in Japan. It is one of the works featured in “Fields of Indigo,” opening Aug. 31 at Krannert Art Museum.

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8/16/2012 | Dusty Rhodes, Arts and Humanities Editor | 217-333-0568;

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — Art patrons will have the opportunity to stomp stalks of indigo – the plant that produces the famous blue dye – at “Fields of Indigo,” an installation by textile artist Rowland Ricketts in collaboration with sound designer Norbert Heber, opening Aug. 31 at Krannert Art Museum.

Apple (Patchwork Variety)
“Apple (Patchwork Variety),” by art instructor Amy Rueffert, incorporates blown and fused glass, decals and found glass, and is one of the pieces featured in the School of Art and Design’s faculty exhibition, opening Aug. 31 at Krannert Art Museum. | Photo courtesy Krannert Art Museum

Ricketts learned how to cultivate indigo and produce and use the dye during apprenticeships in Tokushima, Shikoku Island, Japan. One of the oldest and most popular dyes, indigo was used by ancient civilizations and was used to color the earliest blue jeans. By the 1870s, demand for indigo prompted the development of a synthetic dye; the craft of making natural indigo dye is now practiced mainly by textile artists.

This exhibition will include a series of “felted stones” and textile panels dyed with indigo Ricketts grew from seeds on his farm in Bloomington, Ind., where he is an art professor at Indiana University. He supplied seedlings to the UI Student Sustainable Farm, and some of the harvested stalks will be displayed at the exhibition, where patrons can “stomp” them to begin processing the plants for dye. Heber gathered audio samples from the indigo fields at Illinois and Indiana, and the Natural Cultural Festival in Japan to create a sound installation to accompany the exhibition.

Ricketts will participate in a panel discussion with Gregory P. Levine, art history professor at the University of California at Berkeley, and other Illinois faculty members at 5:30 p.m. Sept. 27 at Krannert Art Museum.

Some of Ricketts’ noren or traditional cloth dividers, also will be on display in an adjacent exhibition, “Fashioning Traditions of Japan.” The curator for both shows, Illinois art history professor Anne Burkus-Chasson, said patrons will see how Ricketts interpreted this traditional Japanese form.

“The formats he uses are all Japanese in origin, but as he uses them, he has altered them and transformed them,” she said. The exhibition also includes cloth woven by Ricketts’ wife, Chinami Ricketts, using the kasuri, or ikat technique. “It is spectacular yardage that could be used to create an obi (sash) or a kimono,” Burkus-Chasson said.

That exhibition, also opening Aug. 31, includes ceramics and woodblock prints, as well as historical textiles on loan from the Spencer Museum of Art at the University of Kansas.

An exhibition of work by Illinois School of Art and Design faculty members also opens Aug. 31, and will feature everything from oil painting and sculpture to new media and comics.

Kevin Hamilton, the chair of new media at the school, will distribute samples of “Complex Fields,” his “self-produced mini-comic.” He is working on a related larger comic, “A Place in Time,” which will be released locally in the fall.

Ryan Griffis, a professor of art and design, will show two pieces from “Between the Bottomlands and the World,” a documentary that uses video, photographs and text to explore the small Illinois town of Beardstown and its connections to global phenomena: “Submerging Land,” a video showing how water is redirected from its natural course for the production of commodity crops, and “Granular Space,” a video meditation tracing one seed from field to grain elevator to barge to ocean-going vessel.

Stephen Cartwright, a professor of sculpture, continues his artistic documentation of the latitude, longitude and elevation of his travels, this time through acrylic plastic that he machined on a router. And Patrick Earl Hammie, a professor of painting, continues using Old Masters techniques to examine contemporary issues of identity, gender, politics and race with another immense painting, this one titled “Case.”

A reception honoring the opening of all these exhibitions begins at 5 p.m. Aug. 30, with a cash bar provided by the Corkscrew Wine Emporium. The reception ends at 7 p.m.; the museum is open until 9 p.m. The faculty exhibition closes Sept. 23; other exhibitions close Dec. 30.

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