The Batik Art of Mary Edna Fraser
151 pages

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151 pages

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Mary Edna Fraser has taken the art of batik to otherworldly heights. An internationally renowned artist, Fraser has had works grace galleries, museums, and public buildings throughout the United States—creating wonder, awe, and an awareness of the environment around us as few artists have had the talent and vision to manage.

Using fabric, wax, and dye, Fraser has transformed the techniques of batik from its ancient origins and forged new panoramas and vistas of our unique planet from the sky above us to the ground beneath our feet, and even down to the evocative landscapes that sprawl across the ocean floor. These images not only astonish us with their allure; they also remind of us of our place in the world and our responsibility to respect and care for it.

Part history and guide to the challenging techniques of this form, The Batik Art of Edna Fraser affords not only a full-color introduction to Fraser's stunning perceptions of the glaciers, icebergs, coastlines, atmospheres, mountains, and rivers that grace our globe, but gives us an intimate look at the artist at work and the philosophies that guide her singular imagination as well.

Bold, beautiful, thoughtful, and always visceral, Fraser's art invites us outside to see with new eyes the horizons that surround us—and inside to see ourselves in our inextricable connection with the land, the seas, the skies, the earth, as we are woven together as one in the fabric of our existence on this, our home, the vibrant blue planet hurtling through space and time.



Publié par
Date de parution 18 juin 2019
Nombre de lectures 0
EAN13 9781611179439
Langue English
Poids de l'ouvrage 24 Mo

Informations légales : prix de location à la page 0,1250€. Cette information est donnée uniquement à titre indicatif conformément à la législation en vigueur.


2019 University of South Carolina
Published by the University of South Carolina Press
Columbia, South Carolina 29208
28 27 26 25 24 23 22 21 20 19
10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data can be found at
ISBN 978-1-61117-941-5 (cloth)
ISBN 978-1-61117-942-2 (paperback)
ISBN 978-1-61117-943-9 (ebook)
FRONTISPIECE Oak Island , detail, batik on silk, 108 72 , 2009.
Front cover illustration: Edingsville. Batik on Silk, 2009
What Is Batik? Self-Portrait
Inspiration and Influences
Tools of Batik
Studio Setup
Preparing the Silk
Kimono Silks
Over the Citadel
Homage to Hokusai II
Hobcaw Barony
Oak Island and Edingsville
Global Perception
Above Mobile Bay
Health and Safety
Batik Supplies
Procion MX Dye Recipe
Basic Steps for Making a Batik
Batik Supply Resources

Her medium is batik-silk cloth colored by hand using a modern variation of an ancient method of dyeing textiles.
Smithsonian National Air Space Museum, Aerial Inspirations: Silk Batiks by Mary Edna Fraser, wall text
Mary Edna Fraser encouraged me, her assistant for a decade, to write a book about her process for students and collectors. This text is a guide to the breadth of techniques and styles that have brought her critical acclaim creating large-scale batiks on silk. We had many conversations around the lunch table in the kitchen as I took notes for the quotations from Mary Edna. Her editing and guidance were paramount to the creation of this book. She urged the production of a glossary and I read every art book in her library. I have worked alongside her on a daily basis, and I hope that my insight will bring the reader both instruction and inspiration. The technical information presented here is essential to batik artists using silk and other fabrics. It is also valuable to silk painters using Procion MX or other dyes, those working with installations, others experimenting with resist techniques, and watercolorists layering translucent paints on paper. Historians and patrons too will appreciate this retrospective.
All process photographs were taken by Cecelia Dailey unless noted. Other photographers included Claude Burkhead III, Chase Cribb, Rick McKee, Timothy Pakron, Carolyn Russo, and Mary Edna Fraser. All final images of batiks were taken by Rick Rhodes and color corrected by Tim Steele.
Thank you to Mary Edna s patrons whose batiks are featured in this book. They support her life as an artist and generously lend their artworks for museum exhibitions.
Charleston International Airport, Charleston Waterways
Charleston Visitor Center, Charleston Coastline
College of Charleston, School of Languages, Cultures and World Affairs
Corporation Service Company (CSC), Global Perception and Slice of South Carolina
Emory University, Lullwater Aerial Garden
Ann Yokley Graves, Waterway
GulfQuest, National Maritime Museum of the Gulf of Mexico, Above Mobile Bay
Martin Harwit, Mississippi River Delta
Catrin Hesse, Backwater
Katherine and David, Moonlit Chrysanthemums
Family of Chris Lorusso, Morris Island
Margaret and Robert Minis, McQueen Inlet
Richard Owens, James Island Creek
Palmetto Bluff, May River
Susan Pearlstine, Chadwick I
Mindelle Seltzer, Edingsville Beach and Edingsville Beach
Phylis and David Sharpe, Homage to Hokusai
Philip Simmons Foundation, Salt Water Branches
Mary Lou Stevenson, Kilimanjaro
Martha Ann and Lee Stuckey, Ibis Sanctuary
Alice Timmons, Shifting Sands
Paul and Sybil Trevisan, Oak Island
Jane Scott Young, Spring of 1994
Conrad Zimmerman, ACE Basin

Mary Edna Fraser photographing barrier islands with her Nikon FM-2 from her family s 1946 Ercoupe. Photograph by Claude Burkhead III.

McQueen Inlet . Batik on silk, 29 64 , 1981. Photographing from the open cockpit of my family s vintage plane, wind in my face translates to batiks on silk, distilling the adventure into art. Expansive vistas become meditative prayers for the planet in the studio, Mary Edna has written.
Flying over the Sea Islands of Georgia in 1980, Mary Edna Fraser took 35mm slides that would first become designs for large-scale art from the aerial perspective. Depictions of complex patterns of the coast have become her signature in her use of modern synthetic dyes on silk in the ancient medium of batik. Teaming with scientists, Mary Edna is motivated to illustrate threatened landscapes to create a legacy of lasting change. She uses her work to show the vulnerability of our world and rejoice in the wonder of nature.
Adventures-whether on land, sea, or air-inspire her content. Transcending the traditions of batik drives her progress as an artist. She explained, Making a new batik is like jumping off a diving board. It s an exploration of the medium whether color, technique or scale.
Growing up flying in the family s vintage 1946 Ercoupe out of Fayetteville, North Carolina, with her father or brother Burke as pilot, she has flown and extensively photographed her aerial backyard -as she calls the seaboard from Virginia to Florida. Experience in flying various aircraft with an instructor allows her to set up compositions. She captures compelling organizations of moving land and water revealed only by altitude.

Nile Delta Desert Islands . Batik on silk, 52 36 , 1999. Based on an infrared film image provided by Dr. Dan Stanley at the Smithsonian Institution s National Museum of Natural History, from his 1998 paper on the Nile Delta, published in the Journal of Coastal Research .

Venice, Italy . Batik on silk, 61 47 , 2000. Cover of A Celebration of the World s Barrier Islands , Columbia University Press, 2003. Mary Edna described her travel that inspired this work: On the evenings when we were in Venice, the San Marcos plaza became a shallow lake as the high tides washed over the Grand Canal and flooded through the storm drains. Day trips to the surrounding barrier islands, navigational charts, and satellite images combine to make this batik.

Mary Edna and her brother Burke. Photograph by Chase Cribb, 2011.

35mm aerial photograph from 1983 by Mary Edna Fraser. Orrin Pilkey recognized the beach as the former location of the town of Edingsville, destroyed by the Sea Islands hurricane of 1893.
As the technology of visual representations has changed, so has Mary Edna. She was a member of the first generation to have fast film that makes clear aerial images possible, and she then saw advancements in digital, satellite, and space imaging and the effect of Google Earth on mapmaking. Today she shoots with a Nikon D90 and an iPhone. Decades of excursions and ground-truthing the locations she translates to batik on silk have led to pioneering educational exhibitions, and her voice has a global reach. Geology, maps, and charts are studied and referenced. Collaborating with scientists has brought images her way, such as early NASA deep space photographs, and her art has been used by scientists to create compelling visual displays.
Her batiks educate a broad audience through her collaborations. For example, Orrin H. Pilkey, Duke professor emeritus of geology, and Fraser came together in their mutual appreciation and concern for barrier islands and beaches. Their first meeting was in 1993 when Mary Edna accompanied Pilkey on a Duke research vessel to Cape Lookout National Seashore, North Carolina, with students. Her first task for Pilkey was to photograph the Outer Banks, and she has been supplying him with aerial imagery since then. Their exhibition Our Expanding Oceans has traveled to Ithaca, New York; Raleigh, North Carolina; and Washington, D.C., with the complementary text Global Climate Change and Pilkey s commentary on threats that face coastal people who are now experiencing sea level rise and global warming. Their first book was A Celebration of the World s Barrier Islands (Columbia University Press, 2003).
Showing a huge range of landscapes found in nature-the terrestrial, terraqueous, mountainous, heavenly, oceanic-Mary Edna visually relates patterns of geographic formations across varying fields of scientific study. The Duke University biologist Cindy Lee Van Dover took Mary Edna to the deep sea, after which Fraser illustrated volcanoes found on the seafloor off the coast of Barbados. The planetary geologist Ted Maxwell provided text for her exhibition titled Mapping the Planets in Silk and Sound , with music by the composer Mark Mercury. The work with these scientists came together in Fraser s newest exhibition, Above, Between, Below .

Edingsville . Batik on silk, 80 34.875 , 2009.

Above, Between, Below at the City Gallery at Waterfront Park, Charleston, S.C., 2015. The bottoms of the batiks were secured in metal U-shaped beams to accommodate the low ceilings of the space.

Installation of the exhibition Above, Between, Below at the City Gallery at Waterfront Park, Charleston, S.C., 2015. The central atrium held the largest silks, draped as swales.

Exhibition at the National Air and Space Museum, 1992. Photograph by Smithsonian Institution.
Mary Edna was introduced to batik while double majoring in clothing and textiles and interior design at East Carolina University. She finished early and spent another year in the fine arts department. Pursuing graduate courses at Arrowmont School of Crafts in Tennessee, she learned resist techniques with Sister Mary Remy Revor in the summer of 1975 and direct dye techniques with Lenore Davis in 1976. She studied with Fred Andrade, South American winner of the American Bicentennial Award, in the summer of 1977. She also took workshops at the University of Georgia with the master dyers Chunghi Choo and Ed Lambert.
Fraser s three decades as a working artist have yielded more than five hundred batiks on silk as well as watercolors, oil paintings, and monotypes on paper. Over one hundred one-woman shows are to her credit. Mary Edna s pursuit of batik has led her down an unusual path for an artist, including exhibiting at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum with that institution s first textile show and its first solo exhibition by a woman.

Detail from Kiawah Island , 108 72 , 1986. In the collection of the National Air and Space Museum. Photograph by Smithsonian Institution.
Batik is a dye-resist process in which removable wax is applied to fabric, creating areas that will resist dyes, while any unwaxed areas will absorb dyes. The word batik also refers to any piece of cloth treated this way.
Terraqueous Silks invitation, Florence Museum of Art, Science, and History, Steven Motte, Curator
Batik is a Javanese word for the wax-resist method of dyeing textiles. The oldest known batiks have been traced back to Japan s Nara period ( A.D . 710-94).
Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum, Susan Lawson-Bell, Curator
Mary Edna Fraser is a master of batik, an ancient method of dyeing textiles by hand. Batik predates the written word and is found across Asia, India, northern Africa, and Greece. It is so old a craft that its true origin has never been determined (Keller, 13). Archaeologists have found evidence of batiked garments in Egypt and Persia, from which locations the medium may have spread to Africa and eastward, but according to some scholars, the Indian Archipelago may be the origin. By the twelfth century batik was established in Java, where it became ingrained in Indonesia economically and culturally (Keller, 14).
In the art of batik, wax is applied to fabric to resist dye, preserving the color of the cloth that s saturated in wax. The unwaxed areas are able to absorb dye. Successive layers of wax and dye build the design. Mary Edna employs the traditional tjanting, a copper spouted bowl, which creates thin lines of wax. Heat-resistant natural-fiber brushes are used to fill large areas with hot wax. The wax is removed at the end of the process, which also heat sets the dyes, and the art is cleaned.
To begin a batik, Fraser uses sawhorses to stretch pieces of silk horizontally, which are held in place with push pins. Direct dyeing is her method, rather than submerging the cloth in vats of dye. By keeping the panels flat throughout the batik process, dyes can be well controlled and excess dye can drip off the underside of the art.

Waxing the moon, Self-Portrait (detail). Photograph by Rick McKee.
Mary Edna usually begins the first waxing by preserving some of the white of the silk. For Self-Portrait , with a single line she outlined the moon and then spiraled in to fill the form. She then flips the batik from front to back, pins it on the stretchers again, and waxes again. Batik requires planning with careful execution. There is no easy way to erase a drop of unwanted wax or dye. Working quickly with hot wax keeps it flowing and liquid enough to penetrate the fabric.

Self-Portrait in progress. Photograph by Rick McKee.

As the artist paints on dye with a brush to the sky, the waxed moon resists the dye. Photograph by Rick McKee.
Four colors were used on the first dye bath for Self-Portrait: blue, light blue, yellow, and orange. She worked rapidly from the sky down, applying with a wide brush across the width of the silk, keeping the edge wet. When filling large areas, a continuous and rapid application of dye prevents edges in process from drying out. She blends carefully at the transition of each color. At the end of the first dye bath, Mary Edna has worked the dye into the fabric from above and below with a wide brush so that it no longer appears blotchy. The dyes molecules are worked into the weave of the fabric to achieve a smooth saturation of dye.
Alternating up to four layers of wax and dye, she applies darker dyes with each layer. The next dyes will combine with the color below, much like watercolor pigment layers on paper.
Self-Portrait , a 36 -wide panel, measures 102 long and needs a two-story wall to hang. Mary Edna often makes 14 -wide batiks made from antique kimono silks to display in small spaces. Her large-scale works have been made to fit five-story walls, and draped sculptures have filled atriums. The tensile strength of silk allows it to be suspended in novel applications of mammoth scale. Silk holds up well to the stress of the batik process and has more longevity and brighter colors than traditional cotton.

The first dye bath of Self-Portrait is complete. Photograph by Rick McKee.

Self-Portrait . Batik on silk, 115 35 , 2005.

Boston II . Batik on silk, 42.75 98.375 , 2007.
Fraser considers her art in two ways. First is the content-the specific waterway, delta, mountain range, or environment of concern. Second, as the work begins, her mind moves to view the silk as pure abstract art, guided by her aesthetic sense, using color to create mood and intrigue, and informed by the impressions of the landscape from her visual memory. The resulting art is a totem of the landscape, a call to respect and preserve. The goal is to evoke a sense of place that differentiates sites. She comes to know her locations through form and color. For example, as an artist, she can choose to erase the industrial marks of man and bring back the marsh, as she did in Boston II .
Batik is known for its linear, graphic style and limited color palette. Mary Edna elevates the textile medium of batik with a dramatic increase in scale and vantage points from a great distance. She breaks with the traditions of batik as she illustrates meticulous detail, organic line work, and vibrant complex colorways. Color choice is often the result of an emotional response rather than solely an imitation of reality.

Moonrise . Batik on silk, 105 44 , 2011.
Perhaps the biggest influences to her aesthetic are the Japanese Edo-era artists, followed by impressionists who were inspired by the use of bold color and abstraction found in the Japanese prints. Mary Edna sees herself as a colorist following in the discoveries of Pierre Bonnard, Edouard Vuillard, Claude Monet, and Vincent van Gogh. In search of expression but seated in the depiction of reality, she is in line with some American painters who predated color-field painting, such as Georgia O Keefe and Milton Avery, who painted the landscape but broke with some of the traditions of oil painting, seeking personal vision.
Mary Edna s continuous self-education as an artist is guided by visits to museums. Early in her career, she was stunned by the oversized landscape kimonos of the Japanese textile artist Itchiku Kubota and realized she could spend her life as a dyer. Kubota s poetic reverence of nature and technical skill catalyzed her aesthetic. She has recalled, Bergdorf Goodman showed a room of Kubota s Landscape Kimonos before they were featured at the Museum of Natural History, New York, in 1995-96. He devoted his life to reviving a tie-dyeing technique developed in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. The laborious time-consuming process in his masterful hands became shimmering panoramas of oversized kimonos. I too wanted to work large scale with landscape. His life s work makes him one of Japan s most beloved masters. Kubota merged modern dye techniques with the ancient art of Tsujigahana, a resist method that incorporates tying and manipulation of the fabric as a dye resist (Kubota, 9, 18). Mary Edna also works in an ancient art form using the latest imagery derived from technology and long-lasting synthetic dyes.
As she batiks her versions of the floating world, Mary Edna recalls the woodblock printmakers of the Edo period and their oblique point of view. Compositional influences of Hokusai and Hiroshige of seventeenth-century Japan inform her format and content. Ukiyo-e means pictures of the floating world and mostly depict Kabuki actors and courtesans of popular interest, although Hokusai was constantly experimenting with style and driven to capture the iconic elements of nature. Illustrated books, poetry, and collections of prints were sold to wealthy merchant customers and later found a wide audience, and they were appreciated by the Western world. French impressionists were influenced by the sensuous line and large color masses of Ukiyo-e designs imported from Japan (Shore, 12). Ukiyo-e artists were informed by the techniques of copperplate printing, oil painting, and linear perspective of Western art. Hokusai and others also imitated decorative frames, shadowed forms and horizontal writing, and were fascinated with realism, integrating these elements with their traditional techniques.

Homage to Hokusai . Batik on silk, 45 14 , 2010.
It was daring for Hokusai in 1830 to have published a series of landscapes without human subjects-not a genre in its own right -for his collection Thirty-six Views of Mount Fuji . Hiroshige responded with his landscapes, which dominated the rest of his career (Forrer, 22-23).
Mary Edna has recalled, During the years I was preparing for the Smithsonian exhibit (1992-95) I had the luxury of going to the museums to spend days looking at the Freer and Sackler Museums of Asian Art. Hokusai s sketches, prints and drawings show water, clouds, waves, mist, and land with the master s hand and a personalized vision. He rearranged the elements of the landscape to present it to the viewer to emphasize the spirit of the natural world. He felt his masterpieces were not created until he reached his seventies. In his eighties Hokusai took up painting, often on silk, in the wake of economic crisis, with another radical change in style (Forrer, 29).
Many North American artists have been drawn not only to the techniques, styles and imagination of Japanese artists, but also to a society that acknowledges and respects the traditional arts (Kubota, 11). Mary Edna embodies Japan s classical tradition characterized by its love of peaceful harmony and contemplation in her process (Shore, 30). As she grows older, she sees age as a rite of passage, bringing wisdom for an artist.
Hokusai s output over his lifetime was huge: printed were over 3,500 designs for prints and 250 books (many in more than one volume) (Forrer, 30). The prolific artist working to become a master of their medium, Mary Edna is inspired by his productivity and consumer distribution. Sumi ink paintings on silk emphasizing the fluidity of line were inspiration for Hokusai and studied by Mary Edna (Forrer, catalog 112). The use of the white of the paper held in the composition is characteristic of block printing; similarly, portions of the undyed cloth are often saved in the first waxing of batik. In block printing, pigment layers are built up from light to dark hues in broad to intricate form-not unlike batik.

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