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Deconstructed Linen Reveals the Rich History Behind Indigo Dyes

Cassandra Holden is telling the lost history of indigo dye with 'Blue Gold'.
Images courtesy the artist

By deconstructing linen and dying with indigo, Cassandra Holden works with woven material to expose fibers of linen and playfully explore the status and physicality of the medium. A painter for much of her life, Holden still uses drawing in parts of her work and is interested in the intersection of weaving and painting, to create abstract shapes and empty spaces. Aware that weaving is often considered a less important practice in the art world, Holden draws on the traditions of painting, while still centered on the physical realities of weaving.


Holden began to study the history of indigo dye and discovered its rich cultural and historical background. A lucrative export for South Carolina, indigo dye had devastating connections to the slave trade in the Amercian Colonies as well as having an important role in the Revolutionary War. Synthetic indigo dye was invented in the late 1800s, putting an end to the indigo market. Holden got to explore the deep practice of working with the dye firsthand in Averill Park, NY, by working in an old textile mill during her residency at Arts, Letters, & Numbers. Her series of indigo works are called Blue Gold.

Holden’s historically-rich abstract pieces are interesting investigations of space and color. They also raise important questions about why some mediums are valued more highly in the art world, much like indigo dye once was. Holden was recently part of a show at S/PLI/T, a two person exhibition series, in Portland, Oregon and had a solo exhibition at the Banff Centre in Alberta, Canada.

To learn more about Cassandra Holden, visit her website.


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