Batik exhibit showcases Indonesian artwork

By Vickie Papageorge
October 6, 2006

An array of colorful and interesting Batik artwork is currently being displayed in the Grace and Joseph Gorevin Fine Arts Gallery in the Holy Spirit Library until Oct. 15. The artwork is by Philadelphia artist Laura Cohn.

Batik art is the process of dying cloths while using substances such as hot wax to avoid the penetration of the dye onto certain parts of the fabric. By doing this, the artist can create designs before dying the cloth with the hot wax and then afterwards adding the dye to fill in where the wax was not spread. This process creates a colorful and beautiful result.

Laura Cohn was introduced to this form of art while she was living in Indonesia for six years. While there, she studied Batik art with an experienced artist and, after some time, grew to love the art form. Cohn said, “I like the process of the art because I have to give up control and be open and flexible with the dyes to see what turns out.”

She incorporates contemporary methods while using the Batik art form to make it her own which displays itself beautifully in the second level of the Holy Spirit Library. Describing her technique, Cohn said, “I use a traditional method and give it a contemporary feel.” The various shades of light browns, lavenders, mauves, light blues and pale oranges make your head spin from one piece to the next.

Batik art is immediately eye catching but it also portrays Indonesian and Muslim culture artistically as Cohn explained. In addition to Cohn’s artwork, she has been traveling back to Indonesia for almost 20 years now and passionately reaches out to teach and introduce people to the Indonesian culture and spirit.

The earliest traces of Batik art were found in Egypt and the Middle East almost 1,500 years ago. There are traces of dyed textile patterns on statues and in temples dating back to A.D. 800. Although the origin and use of the intricate dying process is not precisely recorded, many believe that the process was used as ornamentation for Javanese royalty many years ago. It is also believed that the Javanese helped in the creation of this art form because of their great support for the arts.

Today, the islands of Indonesia have perfected this art form and have popularized it as well. According to, Batik has become so popular and modernized that it has even made a mark on the “world fashion scene.”

Classes on the technique of Batik are taught by Cohn out of her studio and she has an annual show, “From Bali to Bala,” displaying her art work and many pieces she has imported from Indonesia. Her goal is not only to express her ideas through art but to spread the spirit and ideas of a beautiful culture that this country is not entirely familiar with.

Cohn’s passion for the Indonesian culture and her Batik art was as amazing as the beautiful pieces that surround the fine arts gallery. Cohn spoke of her hopes and said, “Hopefully through my small exhibit at Cabrini, I can reach out and show people parts of the Indonesian culture.”

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Vickie Papageorge

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