Indelible Blue: Indigo Across the Globe opens at Albuquerque Museum on January 8, 2022

The history and the art and the allure of a famous blue dye

ALBUQUERQUE, NM — Albuquerque Museum is pleased to introduce Indelible Blue: Indigo Across the Globe. The exhibition opens at Albuquerque Museum on January 8, 2022.

Indelible Blue explores the history, techniques, and movement of indigo, tracing the different varieties of plants back to the regions and cultures that have utilized this elusive dye for millennia. Indelible Blue features artists from around the world currently working with indigo as well as historical objects from Asia, South Asia, Africa, The Americas, and New Mexico. The exhibition considers how artists are reflecting on the cultural and geographical significance of the color blue and traditional ways of dyeing as well as contemplating the social and cultural narratives that impact the present and the future.

The chemical compound (indican) required to produce indigo dye is present in various levels in several different plant families and hundreds of different plant species. Individuals around the globe have ingeniously developed and utilized various methods for extracting and applying indigo dye for at least the last 6,200 years. While many diverse local techniques and uses of indigo have existed, the allure of the famous blue dye has made the story of indigo inseparable from the history of trade, colonialism, slavery, globalism, and cultural exchange. The labor-intensive process of growing indigo plants and extracting blue pigment from them combined with the value of indigo products led colonial powers to establish indigo plantations in the Southeastern United States, The Caribbean, Latin America, and India. The Indigo Revolt in India and the legacy of slavery are examples of the complex and sometimes violent history of how and why the plant has been grown, traded, and used. The exhibition will also focus on local traditions and practices that persist outside of indigo’s existence as a global commodity.

The exhibition is a collaboration between the history and art departments at Albuquerque Museum. Curators Josie Lopez and Leslie Kim worked together to pull objects from the Museum's permanent collection and to reach out to lenders from around the globe. “By collaborating between departments, we can create a deeper narrative connecting art and history in ways that the museum hasn’t in the past,” says Lopez.

Indelible Blue includes works by contemporary artists working with indigo who blur the boundaries between tradition and innovation and between the classifications of fine art and craft. While the story of indigo is entangled with its value as a product, the artworks in the exhibition offer alternative perspectives and ways of engaging with indigo dye that reflect on its historical, ecological, and spiritual significance. Artists featured in the exhibition include Rowland Ricketts, Chinami Ricketts, Nikesha Breeze, Gasali Adeyemo, Laura Anderson Barbata, Eduardo Portillo & Mariá Eugenia Dávila, Hiroyuki Shindo, Yukiyo Kawano, Scott Sutton and more. Historical objects included in the exhibition will demonstrate the versatility of indigo uses from dyed prestige garments to household objects and will include Navajo serapes, woven frazadas from the Rio Grande Valley, Zuni diamond twill manta, and more. The ties between the history and artistic output of indigo reflect the influence of this most desirable dye across the globe.

“The exhibition shows how people have used the material, and it also how it comments on social, political, and cultural issues that are relevant today,” says Lopez. “Indelible Blue tells a story of the past, connecting it to today.”

Indelible Blue will be on view at Albuquerque Museum from January 8 through April 24, 2022.


Sunday, January 9, 1 – 2 p.m.
Talk: Enigmatic Indigo
This talk will examine the worldwide appeal of indigo blue starting 6200 years ago in Peru, to the printed textiles of designer William Morris in the 1800s. We will see plants that yield the pigment as well as examples of exceptional textile designs using indigo. Presenter Karthika Audinet is a DC based textile designer and educator with 25 plus years of international experience and a background in designing luxury furnishings.

Wednesday, February 2, 1 – 3 p.m.
Documentary: Blue Alchemy—Stories of Indigo
Blue Alchemy is an independent documentary about the history, culture, and revival of the blue dye. It is also about remarkable people around the globe who are using indigo in projects that are intended to improve life in their communities, preserve cultural integrity, and bring beauty to the world. This film was produced and directed by Mary Lance, a filmmaker with over forty years of experience in documentary production. She will introduce the film and will be available to answer questions following the screening.

Thursday, February 17, 5 – 8:30 p.m.
3rd Thursday: Indigo
Watch Santa Fe artist Gasali Adeyemo dye fabric with indigo in a traditional Yoruba tie-dye technique. Listen to music from local South American group Baracutanga.

Sunday, March 20, 1 – 2 p.m.
Artist Talk: Laura Anderson Barbata
Laura Anderson Barbata is a transdisciplinary artist, who lives and works in New York and Mexico City. Since 1992 she has worked primarily in the social realm, and has initiated projects in the Venezuelan Amazon, Trinidad and Tobago, Mexico, Norway, and the United States. Barbata will speak about Intervention: Indigo, included in the Museum’s current exhibition Indelible Blue. Intervention: Indigo is an ongoing project that combines procession, dance, music, textile arts, costuming, ritual, improvisation, celebration, and protest.

Thursday, March 24 – Saturday, March 26, 10 a.m. – 5 p.m.
Class: Shibori and Indigo Dying with Debbie Maddy
Stitchology (2502 Rio Grande Blvd NW)
Presented in partnership with Stitchology, learn shibori and indigo dyeing from Debby Maddy, one of Moda Fabric's most popular designers. Shibori is a Japanese manual resist dyeing technique, which produces patterns on fabric. In this three-day class, you will learn the basics of shibori dyeing and take home a dyed silk scarf and many samples created while using your new skills. This class includes a tour of the exhibition Indelible Blue: Indigo Across the Globe with Curator Josie Lopez. $475 plus tax. (Class fee includes indigo, 1 silk scarf and 3 lunches)


Indelible Blue: Indigo Across the Globe
On view January 8–April 24, 2022


Visit our website for details about hours, ticketing, and more.

Details subject to change.


About the Albuquerque Museum

Albuquerque Museum
2000 Mountain Road NW
Albuquerque NM 87104

Albuquerque Museum has served as the city's cultural center since 1967. Located in the heart of Old Town, the Museum is a leading institution for art, history, and culture in the Southwest. Albuquerque Museum is a division of the Department of Arts & Culture, City of Albuquerque.


Media Contact:
Denise Crouse