Dazzling Landscape of Kimonos on Exhibit at Smithsonian
RANDOLPH E. SCHMID
Nov. 17, 1995
WASHINGTON (AP) _ Stretching in a great arc around the room, the 30 kimonos formed a continuous landscape, from the warm reds of summer in a kimono called ``Combustion'' through the cool of winter in another titled ``The Empire of Snow.''
The dazzling kimonos, displayed at the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History, are the work of Itchiku Kubota, the artist who rediscovered and modernized an ancient Japanese dyeing technique.
With a goal of 75 kimonos in his ``Symphony of Light'' landscape series _ at up to two years per kimono _ the 78-year-old Japanese artist would have nearly a century of effort ahead of him.
``I hope I make it,'' Kubota said through an interpreter as he hosted the opening of an exhibition of his kimonos at the Smithsonian.
``If death comes for me, I'll have to kick him out.''
Kubota's technique resembles tie-dyeing carried beyond the possible. The result is finished cloth with complex, detailed images that resemble Impressionist paintings.
``Autumn Prologue'' features the mountainous coast of Japan in orange with a hazy autumn sky of purple, blue and green. Light snow falls on a scene of water and bare trees in ``First Blushes of Winter.''
``Emerald Moment of the Lake'' has a golden sky and red and orange mountains above a green lake with touches of purple and pink. And ``The Purple Hour: Temperance'' displays a dark landscape of brown, blue and purple with highlights of pink and red.
The Smithsonian will display 45 of Kubota's kimonos until April. In addition to the 30 from the ``Symphony of Light'' series, others depict Mount Fuji in various seasons, a woman and ferns, encounters among flowers in a field and the flow of a holy river to the sea.
A panel of cloth pieces illustrates the painstaking work of planning an image, sectioning off tiny areas with thread and than dyeing the cloth in stages to achieve the correct colors and finishes.
Kubota uses synthetic dyes, augmenting the designs with brush painting, embroidery and gold and silver leaf.
As a student and aspiring artist in the 1930s, Kubota came across the 14th-century Tsujigahana dyeing technique in a museum and went on _ with an interruption for military service and six years of detention in Siberia _ to recreate the process in modern form.
Kubota spent decades experimenting, not showing his work publicly until 1977 when it created a sensation in Tokyo. The Smithsonian exhibit follows a series of appearances in Europe.