About "Ancient Colors" 2016
Ancient Colors is the third solo exhibition by Gayle Crites at Chiaroscuro during the nine years her work has been represented by the gallery. The show features a total of fifteen new pieces, including five works on paper and ten on hand-pounded bark. All artworks are painted and dyed only with natural pigments, mordents and earth oxides, which Crites brewed herself. The artist studied and collected natural vegetal and insect dyes, hand-made paper and hand-pounded bark during her travels over the last two years in Tonga, Australia, New Zealand and Mexico. The contemporary artwork in Ancient Colors symbolically connects ancient philosophy with values of the modern world and explores the shared wisdom of indigenous cultures from the Maori, Ainu, Aboriginal, Bagandan, Incan, Tongan, Mayan and Native American people.
Crites spent several months (2015-2016) in Mexico with Zapotec weavers and dyers to learn additional techniques for the use of cochineal for reds and a number of native plants for blues (indigo) and yellows (pericon). Having also studied in Japan (2006), she used an ancient Japanese formula with various earth oxides to make natural “paint” from soymilk and gum tragacanth. Consequently, the works in Ancient Colors employ these “made from source” pigments on hand-made cotton and mulberry papers (Mexico and Japan) and hand- pounded bark - a pre-textile indigenous “cloth”. Though historically made from a variety of trees in different countries, the hand-pounded bark is known as llanchama (Peru), tapa (Tonga), siapo (Samoa), bugu (Africa) and tunu (Nicaragua).
Crites is committed to exceptionally time consuming processes for two reasons. Unlike commercial media, the resulting color is multi-dimensional, which results in a visually rich surface on the hand-pounded bark; the ancient techniques contribute to the meaning of the works, consistent with indigenous tradition. Within the imagery and titles of the work are two primary messages shared by indigenous societies: 1) The concept of reciprocity or balanced exchange and 2) A deep regard for nature and the land.
With further regard to cochineal - beginning in 2015, one of Crites’ major works entitled, “Then Now/Now Then”, was included in the traveling museum exhibition, The Red That Colored the World, organized by the Museum of International Folk Art, Santa Fe, New Mexico. This exhibition included historic work by cultures and artists worldwide and traveled to a second museum exhibition at the Bowers Museum, Santa Ana, California. The show was accompanied by a hardback reference volume, A Red Like No Other, that includes more than three hundred images and essays by a team of more than forty international experts. Crites’ artwork, also in the publication and now returned to Chiaroscuro, represents that of a contemporary artist incorporating the ancient natural tints and tones of cochineal and will be included in the body of work for Ancient Colors.