Food Material:
On Indigo and Rice
A public program series with artists Charmaine Bee and Candice Lin
October 3, 2021

Calling high school and college students! Artist and Professor of Art at UCLA Candice Lin hosts a workshop on indigo dyeing techniques. Using a homemade rice paste for designs, participants explore the potential of food products to be used outside of the kitchen and examine their myriad uses across histories, cultures, and continents.

Special thanks to François Ghebaly Gallery, Los Angeles.


October 6, 2021 at 4 pm PST

For our sixth episode of Food Material, Charmaine Bee and Active Cultures Curatorial Assistant Anna Cho-Son will discuss Bee's artistic delineation of these legacies, navigating through physical and spiritual landscapes the ways in which indigo and rice are remembered and forgotten, transformed and altered. The two explore the parallel histories of indigo and rice cultivation across the Pacific and Atlantic—sites spanning physical and spiritual landscapes—and the labor, love, and politics of pattern and design and the ways in which these materials inform Bee's recent textile, video, and sculptural work.

Q&A discussion to follow.


Story Residency with Charmaine Bee
October 7 - 11, 2021

Active Cultures resumes its Story Residency series with Charmaine Bee, who shares their recent work with indigo dye and tea bags; their travels to her hometown in South Carolina; and their archival research. Examining both personal and historical legacies, Bee's work traverses various lands and timescapes to explore Gullah heritage and the histories and manifestations of African diaspora spirituality.

Active Cultures presents Food Material: On Indigo and Rice, a series of public programs guided by artists Charmaine Bee and Candice Lin, who explore these two ingredients as both form and phenomena. Food Material is an ongoing program that explores how foodways and food materials provide a window into our most fundamental beliefs about cultural expression, equity, historiographies, environmental sustainability, and ourselves—through the lens of artistic practice. Across a workshop, conversation, and residency, this new program series highlights indigo and rice for their parallel historical contexts and transformations across the Atlantic and Pacific. Grounded in Bee and Lin's work, an investigation of rice and indigo as materials and subjects for food, dyes, and drawing brings these narratives into focus through the lens of the present and personal. Both endemic to parts of Asia and Africa, indigo and rice were transported across the globe through colonial trade routes and brought to the American colonies in the 17th-century. As two of the most significant cash crops, their cultivation relied on the knowledge and labor of enslaved African people, inextricably tying their proliferation to this colonial legacy and necessarily informing our understanding of their contemporary uses. The comparative consideration of indigo and rice traces the intersections of today's agricultural and textile industries and understandings of how labor and capitalism operates under a global colonial project. Centering their shared histories and uses not just as food and dye, but as commodified crops entwined with a colonial economy, we can expand our understanding of discrete ingredients as enmeshed topographies and threaded portals.


Charmaine Bee uses mediums such as video, movement, sculpture, writing, sound and textile and makes work about Gullah heritage and the histories and manifestations of African diaspora spirituality. Charmaine works with materials harvested in the Sea Islands of the United States during the era of slavery, such as rice and indigo. Charmaine also makes work about medical bias as well as healing and wellness through plant medicine and how these histories are activated through portals of geographic sites, time and spaces we can't see but can feel.

Before receiving an MFA, Charmaine formally studied herbalism and makes herbal medicine and teaches workshops on herbs for dreaming. Charmaine is from the Sea Islands of South Carolina and resides in Bahia, Brazil.

Candice Lin works in Altadena, California. Her practice utilizes installation, drawing, video, and living materials and processes, such as mold, mushrooms, bacteria, fermentation, and stains. Lin has had recent solo exhibitions at the Times Museum, Guangzhou, China (2021); Govett Brewster Art Gallery, New Plymouth (2020), New Zealand; ICA, NYU Shanghai (2020); Pitzer Galleries, Claremont, California (2020) and the Walter Phillips Gallery, Banff Art Center, Canada (2019). Lin has been included in recent group exhibitions including the 2021 Gwangju Biennial, the Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis, the 2019 Fiskars Village Art & Design Biennale, 2018 Taipei Biennale; the 2018 Athens Biennale; and the Made in L.A. 2018, Hammer Museum, Los Angeles. They are the recipient of several residencies, grants and fellowships, including the American Academy in Berlin Fellowship (2021), the Joan Mitchell Painters and Sculptors Grant (2019), The Artists Project Award (2018), Louis Comfort Tiffany Award (2017), the Davidoff Art Residency (2018) and Smithsonian Artist Research Fellowship (2009). They received her BA in Visual Arts and Art Semiotics from Brown University, in 2001, and MFA in New Genres from San Francisco Art Institute, in 2004. Lin is Assistant Professor of Art at UCLA.


Images: Charmaine Bee, story time, 2012. Courtesy of the artist.

Candice Lin, Seeping, Rotting, Resting, Weeping, 2021. Hand-printed (katazome) and hand-drawn (tsutsugaki) indigo panels, steel bar, dyed rugs, glazed ceramics, epoxy resin, feathers, block-printed and digitally printed fabric (masks), bells, tassels, and miscellaneous small objects. Installation view from Walker Art Center, Minneapolis. Photo: Awa Mally for Walker Art Center. Courtesy of François Ghebaly, Los Angeles/New York.

Food Material: On Indigo and Rice is made possible through the generous support of the Active Cultures Board of Directors; the Gatherers Annual Fund; and California Humanities. This program is also supported in part by  the California Arts Council, a state agency. Special thanks to François Ghebaly Gallery.