“Thinking,” rust assemblage.
Ashland Gallery Guide 47
Marta Marthas: As a graduate student
in my twenties, I learned to achieve
different shades of blue by dipping a
variety of fibers, including wool, silk,
and cotton in a chemical vat of pigment
extracted from Indian indigo (Indigofera
tinctora) plants. Since retiring from
a career in academia, I’ve revived my
interests in natural dyeing and fiber arts.
In 2015, I read an article by John
Marshall, a Japanese-trained master
indigo dyer, and fell in love with indigo
dye. Marshall described dyeing silk
with fresh leaves of Japanese Indigo
(Persicaria tinctoria) that he grew in his
garden in California. Vivid aqua and teal
colors can be achieved by dyeing silk and
wool only with fresh Japanese indigo
leaves, which contain both yellow and
I knew immediately that I needed my
own Japanese indigo dye garden!
I started with one small bed of Japanese
indigo plants and now have several.
Because Japanese indigo is a frostsensitive
annual, I can only dye in
summer and early fall.
Now I combine the blue-greens of fresh
leaf Japanese indigo dye with images
from botanical printing and markings
of rusty found objects to create surface
design on clothing, fabric and yarn. For
me, these unique combinations of colors
and marks evoke water, earth and sky.
Darlene Southworth: Many aspects
of my life come together to create
rust assemblages. As an academic
botanist and mycologist, I look closely
at the ground to see what’s there, what
traces have been left, what events have
occurred. As a hiker and camper,
I spend time outdoors in wild and notso
wild campgrounds and on trails,
and there I pick up litter—the cast-offs
of civilization. Over the years, I have
accumulated a large collection of rusty
objects. Then I took a workshop in
watercolor and digressed to painting
buildings, life forms, skies, water,
faces, and abstractions.
One day I spread out my rust collection
and decided that I could compose images
of the same sorts of things that I could
paint. And combining my experience with
fibers, I began to sew rusty objects onto
canvases. Linear pieces, such as rusted
nails or wires, become lines. Because
the pieces are not flat,
they create shadow lines
as well. Rust limits the
palette to earth colors
resembling the pigments
lunar earth, burnt
sienna, and burnt umber.
Because the rusted
objects are somewhat
familiar, the viewers’
interpretation of the
pieces flickers between
the parts and the whole.
I think this creates a