Exhibit looks at the history and art behind one of nature’s most elusive colors


Japanese Bedcover, ca. 1900s handspun and handwoven cotton, sumi ink and indigo and different dyes 65×65 inches, Museum of Inernational Folk Art. (Courtesy of the Albuquerque Museum)

Indigo’s deep midnight blue splashes and flows its approach all through the world and throughout history.

Artists from Asia, Africa and the Americas have used indigo in numerous kinds and methods for at least the final 6,200 years, mentioned Josie Lopez, curator of art for the Albuquerque Museum.

One of the seven colors of the rainbow, blue stays one of the rarest naturally occurring colors. Indigo is one of the few natural sources of blue dye.

Opening at the Albuquerque Museum, “Indelible Blue: Indigo Across the Globe” explores the history of that elusive plant from the Navajo Nation to South Carolina to Japan.

Indigo’s well-known blue weaves from a rocky history buttressed by commerce, colonialism, slavery, globalism and cultural alternate.

“It’s been in the state since the colonial period,” mentioned Leslie Kim, Albuquerque Museum curator of history. “The friar’s robes were dyed with it. It came up the Camino Real via both dye and fabric.”

Hanoolchaadi (First Phase Chief Blanket) Diné ca. 1860, spun and dyed wool. (Courtesy of Maxwell Museum of Anthropology)

The labor-intensive course of of rising and extracting indigo crops mixed with their worth led colonial powers to determine indigo plantations in the Southeast, the Caribbean, Latin America and India. The legacy of slavery and India’s 1859 Indigo Revolt replicate its generally ugly and violent history. The revolt erupted when farmers rebelled towards British planters who pressured them to surrender their land, working it solely for British profit.

A Japanese farmer’s coat and Indian saris reveal its use in utilitarian clothes. The exhibition features a uncommon First Phase Navajo Chief’s blanket and an analogous garment from the Ivory Coast as markers of status.

Some up to date artists use the dye in political installations. Enslaved folks carried out the cultivation and processing of indigo from the seventeenth to the nineteenth centuries for European revenue. Works by Laura Anderson Barbata and Taos artist Nikesha Breeze replicate this darkish history.

“Red, White, Black and Blue: An Homage to African American Indigo” by Nikesha Breeze, ceramic, uncooked indigo, purple iron, cotton and denim.

Breeze created sculptures titled “Red, White, Black and Blue: An Homage to African American Indigo,” made of ceramic, uncooked indigo, purple iron, cotton and denim. The set up honors the enslaved individuals who had been essential to the indigo commerce, particularly in North and South Carolina.

Breeze stumbled upon the unhappy history of American indigo plantations whereas she was researching her ancestral roots. She created two altar items in an homage to the enslaved individuals who labored there.

“American blue jeans had its history in what was called ‘Negro cloth,’ ” she defined. “They not only wore the cloth; they made it for themselves. Most of them were only given one pair of pants per year. It was like a uniform.”

Nikesha Breeze installs her sculpture “Red, White, Black and Blue: An Homage to African American Indigo” at the Albuquerque Museum.

Levi Strauss noticed the pants and turned them right into a enterprise.

“He added rivets and created a history of American ingeniousness that was literally taken off the backs of slaves.”

Breeze’s altars begin with indigo muffins and uncooked cotton, then climb into Negro fabric rising into Levi Strauss’ denims.

“At the top are carved ceramic hands and feet with dark black skin dyed blue,” she mentioned.

It wasn’t till the discovery of artificial dyes round 1880 that the botanical indigo commerce subsided.

Many of the exhibition artists corresponding to Rowland Ricketts, Scott Sutton, Mariá Dávila and Eudorado Portillo course of their very own indigo.

“To Plait,” James Bassler, 2015, wedge weave building; silk, linen, ramie, sisal, pineapple, nettles weft; indigo-dyed silk and linen warp, 47-1/4×44-1/4 inches. (Courtesy of browngrotta arts)

Taos artist Sutton created a dangling indigo map of the Rio Grande Watershed.

“It’s environmentally/ecologically-based stuff,” Sutton mentioned. “I use a lot of mineral pigments that I collect.”

Sutton grows Japanese indigo crops in his Taos greenhouse. He named his web site

“It’s an annual, so you have to collect seeds and let some of it grow to flower,” he mentioned. “The pigment’s in the leaves.”

He strips the leaves from the stems, then locations them in a 35-gallon rubbish container with water.

“You’re making like a sun tea,” he defined. After about three days, he aerates the dye by blowing into the water with an irrigation tube. Pigment particles choose the backside.

“Rolling Calf,” Laura Anderson Barbata, 2015, hand-woven indigo-dyed cotton textile by Habibou Coulibaly, courtesy of L’Aviva Home, indigo-dyed cotton brocade, printed cotton, machine embroidery from Oaxaca, adorned sneakers, pure fiber basket, buttons, cloth maché, leather-based, character from Intervention: Indigo. (Courtesy of Rene Cervantes)

Sutton borrowed his seeds from the Indiana artist Rowland Ricketts. His Albuquerque undertaking consists of a number of shades of blue. He based mostly the sample on U.S. Geological Survey peak maps.

Mahatma Gandhi’s non-violent coverage sprang from watching the Indian farmers domesticate indigo, Kim mentioned.

“Gandhi went to visit the farmers to understand the labor systems tied to British colonization,” she mentioned.

“Indigo was a very important crop to England,” she continued. “They forbade them to plant crops and forced them to grow indigo. It’s a difficult history.”

Indigo weaves its magic all through cultures and history.

“It’s that deep blue becoming a symbol of prestige,” Lopez mentioned. “There’s no blue without indigo.”