That’s the best way to describe the past few days in Seattle, Washington. I have visited this great city with 2 good friends and am totally blown away by all that we have seen. Our reason for the trip was to see an exhibit at the Asian Art Museum, on tour from the National Textile Museum in Washington, D.C. titled “Colors of the Oasis.” The show features an incredible collection of Central Asian Ikats. Here’s a quote from Pam McClusky, Curator of Art of Africa and Oceania:
“Exuberant clothes were a common sight in the oasis cities of Central Asia. During the 19th century, patrons wore rich colors and mysterious designs on a daily basis. Their encouragement led to a flourishing use of ikat, a labor intensive process that requires many stages and layers of experience to complete. Positioned as a trading center where goods and people flowed in from India, China, Iran and Russia, Central Asia fostered an aesthetic that made the most of overlapping influences.
This exhibition will recreate a sense of walking into a crowd of cosmopolitan clients who wear robes of distinctive boldness. As an English visitor (William Eleroy Curtis) wrote in 1911: “Everybody wears a coat like a rainbow… No matter how humble or hungry a man may be, and even if he has but a single garment, it is made of the most brilliantly colored material he can find.” Over 40 robes will provide a vision of the oasis crowd. Some feature sharp graphic designs of rigorous abstraction, but others favor delicate harmonies with flowing floral motifs. Scorpions and Arabic script, paisleys and European florals, jeweled tassels and cypress trees swirl together in a design pool that reflects oasis life.”
Imagine yourself surrounded by this sort of color and pattern. It was such a treat to get up close and study the intricate woven textiles that make up these coats. The show was not crowded so we could take our time and enjoy every piece thoroughly. Well worth the trip!
There are beautiful large photographs on display and an interesting video which demonstrates the ikat dyeing technique. Photography was not allowed in the exhibit so you must see it to experience how marvellous it is. I think there are photos of several of the coats in the book Central Asian Ikats. It may have been a different book. Regardless this is a good book with many fine examples of ikat garments. I’ve included a photo taken a few years ago when I tried on an ikat coat in Istanbul. I didn’t buy this particular one, but isn’t it a beauty?
Found another couple of ikat photos to share.
Coincidentally another outstanding show was on display in Seattle. We were able to visit The Pacific Science Center, where we saw Tutankhamun: The Golden King and the Great Pharaohs. Aside from this show being incredible to see – it was even better because they allow you to photograph to your heart’s content. And I did. The show is very popular and therefore quite crowded. I’m not sure if there is a best time of day to go, and I would certainly call the ticket office to ask advice on that. Tickets are purchased for a specific entry time and date, and this did help to keep people moving. I found if you were watchful you could often find an artifact that was clearly visible. The lighting in the exhibit is outstanding. You could easily see the exquisite details on all the artifacts. I must quote from the website:
“Step into one of history’s most treasured stories in Tutankhamun: The Golden King and the Great Pharaohs, now open at Pacific Science Center. The exhibition features more than 100 objects from King Tut’s tomb and ancient sites representing some of the most important rulers throughout 2,000 years of ancient Egyptian history. With more than twice the number of artifacts than the original Tut exhibit that toured in the 1970s, many of these objects have never toured in the United States before this exhibit. Come face-to-face with the largest image of King Tut ever unearthed – a 10-foot statue of the pharaoh found at the remains of the funerary temple of two of his high officials. See authentic objects from King Tut’s tomb including jewelry, furniture and ceremonial items, as well as the boy king’s golden sandals – created specifically for the afterlife and covering his feet when his mummified remains were discovered in 1922 by British explorer Howard Carter.
In addition to the spectacular canopic coffinette (that once contained the boy king’s mummified stomach) featured prominently in the exhibition’s advertising, learn about the other magnificent treasures here.”
This coffinette is a tiny coffin made in the image of the Pharoah, is richly decorated with gold. It shows work you would expect to find in magnificent jewelry (which was also part of the show). Here’s a sampling of the fine things on display.