Sure, it’s kind of an hour and a half drive from Cleveland to Canton, but if you can possibly make it down by April 26, it’s well worth it to catch the special exhibit currently at the Canton Art Museum, Kimono as Art: The Landscapes of Itchiku Kubota.
Pictures can’t do justice to the beauty and subtly of the effects that Japanese artist, who died in 2003 at the age of 85, captured in dye on fabric. The oversized silk kimonos aren’t actual wearable garments but merely backdrops for Kubota’s stunning, nature-based designs, backdrops that quietly evoke the culture and history from which they sprung.
Kubota spent most of his life trying to recapture the unique effect of a piece of 350-year-old dyed fabric he’d seen in a museum in Japan when he was 20. He never duplicated it but at the age of 60, he finally developed his own process, which he felt achieved the same effect. It involves tie-dying the fabric in tiny increments and incorporating the puckers created by tying the fabric into the design. He also added ink drawing, embroidery and gold leaf to designs that freeze the most evanescent moods of nature and qualities of water, sky and light. The result is works like “Lovebirds Playing by the Waterside,” with its golden birds frolicking on fields of lavender, aqua and green, with each new section picking up and reflecting the color of the previous section before moving on. With only dye and tiny fabric puckers, he creates water that seems to flow, swirl and shimmer on fabric. Two views of Mt. Fuji, “Fuji and Woodland” and “Fuji and Burning Clouds,” show the range of Kubota’s handling of colors. The former’s muted, semi-abstract color effects clearly echo the work of Monet, while the vivid golds, purples and blues of the latter suggest the work of such early 20th-century artists as Matisse or Klimt.