Saturday, April 29, 2017

The Cat Sat on the Mat

These "kats" hung on the wall. And, as I found out, it's pronounced EE-KAHHT. The Museum of Fine Arts Houston is hosting "Colors of the Oasis— Central Asian Ikats". The majority are mid 19th century textiles and coats from Uzbekistan.

At first glance the coats look like the most gorgeous bathrobes ever. Soon wonder takes over, along with the realization you will never ever find a bathrobe so glorious. If Boho had a motif it would probably be ikat. The intricate patterns and muted colors conjure up windswept deserts, fanciful tents, dancing and ceremonies. I was surprised to learn that this painstakingly laborious technique dates only from the 19th century, defying the industrial revolution taking place.

In tie-dye, you tie off segments of fabric and dye the piece to create a pattern. In ikat you somehow figure out the pattern first, dye the individual threads (with natural dyes) then weave the cloth. Oh my. Although the museum included a video, the "somehow" is still a mystery.

Delicate and time consuming to create, it's no wonder ikats were prized as ceremonial garments and dowry pieces and passed down for generations. The majority are cotton, but some are silk. The man's coat below has a silk exterior lined with ikat and must have belonged to a very wealthy person. It's the Uzbekistan equivalent of a cloth coat lined in mink.

Yes, ikats were worn by both men and woman. The men's shapes are more "kimono"; the women's more intricately pieced with tucks under the arms for ease while dancing.

Uzbekistan is a republic in central Asia situated south of Kazakhstan and north of Afghanistan and was once part of the Soviet Union. Ikat dress was a unique character of the area but was considered bourgeois when the Bolsheviks took over. 

Mid 19th century mother and son

The museum is not the only place to find ikats in Houston. This is the famous "Biscuit Paint Wall" on the side of a home furnishings store in my neighborhood.

1 comment:

  1. boy-o-boy would I love to see that exhibit! Thanks for the informative comments as well.