Blue Gold: The Art and Science of Indigo
Indigo—both a varied plant family that grows worldwide and the deep-blue dye it produces—has a long and multifaceted history of cultivation, production, and distribution. Blue Gold combines science, craft, and history to explore this color’s complex past and present. Indigo’s beauty and ubiquity have eclipsed the unpleasant realities of its growth and manufacture, including hard labor and pollution, and its association with colonialism and slavery. As a pigment, indigo has been assigned protective properties, healing powers, and dangerous qualities that have shaped its uses in crafts and the arts. The exhibition highlights the roles of botany, chemistry, medicine, ecology, and economics in indigo cultivation. Contemporary craftspeople and artists working with indigo, such as Porfirio Gutiérrez and Laura Kina, address questions about the sustainability of indigo, its problematic legacies, and technological alternatives to manual processing.
Prestige Cloth Wrapper, 20th Century. Nigeria, Yoruba people. Cotton, indigo. Collection Mingei International Museum. ©Mingei International Museum.