You may not see Rothko in this….

A few years ago I had a friend who would go on and on about the paintings of Mark Rothko. She even wanted to make curtains like some of the paintings. I looked him up, admired the paintings, and (in my head) went, meh.

Then I saw an original Rothko at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City. Wow. What a difference. They just don’t photograph well. In person, you can see that they actually consist of layers and layers and layers of transparent colors, building up depth and, well, expressionism. Way cool. Still not sure how you could do that in curtains, though…

Anyway, one of the ideas I’ve been working on is achieving something similar in fabric. You can only take a piece through dye baths so many times before all the molecules are all tied up. You can only put so many layers of paint on before the fabric becomes stiff and loses any advantage over just painting on canvas.

But you can layer fabrics of various opaqueness, with different colors and such. And get a look vaguely reminiscent of Mr. Rothko. I’ve done this with all sheers, or some sheers.

c2012 BJ Parady

And that’s what happened here. The bottom layer is a handdyed cotton (blue-violet, it shows up better in the picture below). The next layer is some gelatin dyed fabric that is the upright rectangles. On top of all that is a blue-violet silk organza. And some strips of painted linen.

c2012 BJ Parady

I added batting and a back, and sewed the silk down on the machine. The overall effect was a little blah and boring, so I started cutting out small sections. That’s where the piece is now–maybe it’s done, maybe it’s not.

But the point is, I started at one point (Rothko) and ended up with something my own–just because another artist influences you, or inspires you, doesn’t mean you have to make clone art that looks like their work. Let that piece be the little quotation at the beginning of the book, and you write the whole story.


About BJ Parady

I make art about the microcosm I live in. At the moment, that's a suburb of Chicago on the Fox River were the prairies used to bloom. The art is inspired by the view out my car window or down my street as I walk. Right now most of my art is in an abstract expressionist style.
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One Response to You may not see Rothko in this….

  1. Sheila says:

    I bought a book on Rothko because his work reminded me so much of traditional quilt patterns. I was horridly disappointed in his work, so boring. I thought I was just missing the stitching a quilter would put on such plain designs. But your explanation of the difference seeing the work in person makes so much sense – I know that to be true!

    Love your last paragraph – I’ve been collecting quotations about this very thing and will be sharing them soon on my blog.

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