Art show to dye for


Judi Pettite, Los Medanos College Art Gallery director, aligns some framed photos being placed on the wall for the Iron & Wine: The Ritual of Natural Dye show currently open in the Library.

Brendan Cross

The Los Medanos College Art Gallery, located within the library, is currently holding an exhibition entitled Iron & Wine: The Ritual of Natural Dye by Deepa Preeti Natarajan.

Natarajan, the artist of the gallery, has many intentions for the show in terms of what she wants students to take away from it.

“There are two critical components to studying natural dye. Iron is used as a way to bind color to fabric and modify color. Wine is rich in tannins, which is the dye that can be extracted from different plant materials. So this explores plants that have tannin and also how iron changes the color of cloth in a dye bath,” said Natarajan as she explained that iron used as dye is extracted from leaving rusted nails in a vat of vinegar for months on end.

Some installations in the gallery will include many dyed fabrics, a small garden which shows what different plants can give color, and a piece entitled Letters to Handan. “Handan is a town in China that was recently majorly impacted by a chemical spill from a nearby textile manufacturing town. The chemical turned out to be synthetic dye,” said Natarajan.

One of the main focuses of the gallery is the negative impact that synthetic dyes can have on human health.

Natarajan said, “It is the bright vibrant colors that we see in all the stores that we go to that contaminated over a million peoples drinking water. So that [Letters to Handan] is a way to say we are listening and that we aren’t just going to forget these kinds of tragedies in the world.” Los Medanos Art Gallery Director Judi Pettite was also interested in the impact of dyes from a consumer and artist standpoint. As a consumer, she said, “I am interested in the impact my choices have on the environment, whether it is my own immediate environment or thousands of miles away.” As an artist, she said, “I am interested in the story of color… I like how Deepa introduces the chemical processes involved, which have been used for thousands of years and are both visceral and chemical.”

The show will run until March 14 with a reception from 4 to 7 p.m. on Thursday, Feb. 28, and a natural dye workshop hosted by Deepa at the Los Medanos College Nature Preserve on Sunday, March 2, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.

There is a $10 donation for the workshop. Contact [email protected] to RSVP. Enrollment is limited.