Tansey Contemporary proudly presents Evanescence, Judith Content Solo Exhibition, curated by and previously on view at the San José Museum of Quilts & Textiles, on view in Denver July 6 through August 24, 2019. Evanescence features a selection of textile works and a ceramic installation by Palo Alto, California artist Judith Content. Known for her use of discharge dyeing and shibori dyeing technique, Content’s work references the natural landscape with painterly movement to explore place and memory.
Inspired by various elements of Japanese culture—haiku poetry, wagashi confections, and kimonos—Content creates her textile works using complex arashi and itajime shibori dyeing techniques on silk, her preferred material. Arashi shibori, a wrapped dyeing technique, pleats silk before wrapping it around a cylindrical form. The silk is tied tightly with string, discharged, dyed, overdyed, unwrapped and torn into pieces before being assembled into its final form. Itajime adds materials such as bamboo leaves into the wrapping process to produce new variations in the design. A master of shibori techniques, Content has spent four decades mastering its variations.
Content’s compositions evoke a Japanese aesthetic. For example, her wall pieces take the form of simplified kimonos, referring to her early and ongoing work in wearable garments. Drawn to intuitive symmetry, she uses the kimono form for its balance and harmony. Her new sculptural works mimic traditional Japanese wagashi confections, known for its delicate qualities and labor intensive assembly, and the tranquility of zen gardens. Content refers to her work as visual haiku saying, “I hope the meditative quality of my work encourages viewers to draw upon their own memories and experiences when contemplating my work.”
Content additionally looks to the natural world in its myriad forms: inlets, coastal marshes, fog, majestic mountainscapes, desert canyons, an expanse of sky. She says, “I find inspiration in the interplay of light and shadow within natural landscapes.” Her final works are often informed by her own photography taken during her travels. Her fragmented, linear wall compositions echo the lapping of waves, ripples of sand, and the cascading light of a sunset and speak to the spliced quality of memory. Content’s abstract interpretations provide space for the viewer to form their own relationship with each artwork.
Content’s background in watercolor surfaces in her bold, painterly use of color and line. She aspires to create subtle visual tension by intersecting dynamic and harmonious elements in each work. Content constantly reinvigorates her color palette and forms, “creating symphonies of line and hue” as Martha Sielman says. Her hues span the seasons from the stark whites of winter to the fiery ombre sunsets of summer, the umbers of autumn to the chartreuse of spring.
Content’s art has been exhibited nationally and internationally; numerous institutions hold her work in their permanent collections including the de Young Museum, Fine Arts Museum of San Francisco, Museum of Arts and Design, San Jose Museum of Quilts and Textiles, International Shibori Collection, and the State of New Mexico’s public art collection. She has served as juror for Quilt National and Quilt Visions and as president of Studio Art Quilt Associates where she established the exhibition program.