Sunday, April 15, 2012

Judith Content

Leaves Fall, Feathers Float, Fish Swim Upstream

     Judith Content is a fiber artist from Palo Alto, California, who utilizes a contemporary interpretation of the Japanese dye technique, Arashi-Shibori. Her hand-dyed, quilted, and pieced silk wall pieces often depict elaborate landscapes that are inspired by the mystery and majesty of the Pacific coastline.
     Content has been an artist for more than thirty years, starting with training in painting to being a student of Japanese shibori and branching out to many other mediums.  Highly skilled in the dyeing arts, Judith has developed her own arashi (pole wrapping) shibori technique that subtracts and adds color, which she uses to constructs large kimono-shaped wall panels with a palette of various silk fabrics. This approach produces a unique and calming effect, attractive to the eye, regardless of the piece’s size.

                                                                 Sumie and Snow

     As this technique is practiced in Japan, fabric was tightly wrapped and compressed on long polished wooden poles. The poles were then submerged in vats of indigo dye. The threads used to secure the fabric to the pole as well as the manipulated pleats resist the penetration of dye. Patterns reminiscent of wind- driven rain emerged from this process. Perhaps this is why the dye process was named arashi, which translates as the word “storm” in Japanese.


     For over 30 years, Content has been exploring and refining this dye technique, creating a contemporary approach to an ancient technique. She has devised her own ways of wrapping and applying the dye. Over the years Judith Content has refined several unique approaches of the traditional arashi-shibori. Rather than indigo she uses a broad spectrum of the beautiful Japanese “miyakozome” dyes to create a collection of silks just as a painter would mix their paints. Judith also at times removes layers of color through delicate bleaching processes for even more intricate colorations. This process creates subtle gradations of color that merge and morph into each other. The viewer cannot always tell when and how one color becomes another. Although she can control the results to a great extent, Content states “the element of surprise when the silk is unwrapped and the patterns are revealed never fails to excite me.”

Sweltering Sky                        La Briere

     During the summer of 2010 when Content visited the Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge in New Mexico she was drawn to the mission of their Watershed Educational Project which she describes as “an exciting exploration of river ecology, riparian/wildlife habitat, cultural traditions of New Mexico and the restoration efforts of this vital wetlands, at home in a desert landscape. Exploring the deep water marsh on boardwalks and trails I was mesmerized by the sensation of reeds and grasses towering overhead, their graceful silhouettes reflected in the water at my feet. The experience gained an element of mystery when the sky grew dark and rain poured down. This morphed to exhilaration when the sun came out, mirroring the sky on water droplets balancing on the blades of marsh grasses.” Content knew this strange and new environment would find its place in her future projects.


     Judith says of her marriage of technique and narrative: “By integrating technique and vision I hope to evoke a mood, create a feeling or stir a memory that resonates in a deeply personal way with the viewers of my art. I am passionate about the process involved in my work and relish the labor of its creation.” Her work captures a moment in time and freezes it so the artist and the viewer can return and each time find new colors and ways in which they interact with one another. The experience takes one on a familiar journey that is seen newly each time. Content’s handling of light and dark, brilliant color juxtaposed to the most subtle of hues, and the interaction of natural light coupled with the size of her pieces envelop the viewer in a unique experience.


     Like the Japanese haiku her work explores the essence of an image, a memory, or a moment in time. She finds inspiration in nature’s waterways, from coastal estuaries to desert pools. She is especially drawn to the haunting beauty of fens and marshes and the relationship between light and shadows as atmospheric changes abstract the landscape.

Precipice                                  Chazm

     A full-time studio artist for more than twenty years, Judith Content has shown nationally in exhibitions such as Visions and Quilt National as well as internationally in Japan, Indonesia, the United Kingdom, Canada, Belgium and France. Her work is represented by several galleries nationally, and her most recent solo exhibition was at Thirteen Moons Gallery in Santa Fe, New Mexico in 2004. She has work in the permanent collection of the Fine Arts museums of San Francisco, the Museum of Contemporary Arts and Design, New York, NY, and the International Shibori Collection belonging to the city of Nagoya, Japan. Publications include "The Art Quilt" by Robert Shaw, "The Kimono Inspirations: Art and Art to Wear in America" by Rebecca A.T. Stevens, "Memory on Cloth: Shibori Now" by Yoshiko I. Wada and "Artwear: Fashion and Anti-Fashion" by Melissa Leventon. 

Rain Shadow

     Judith is currently on the Board of Directors of the Studio Art Quilt Association, and served three years on the board of the Textile Arts Council of the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, CA. She has served several terms on the Foundation Board of the Palo Alto Art Center in California where she continues to volunteer.

Tempest                         Ocean of Storms


Vernal Pool

Tule Fog                                Prism

Cenote  Turquesa

Judith Content