As the remaining weeks of the exhibit Josef Albers in Mexico are savored and the exuberance in textiles of the exhibit Color Riot! is experienced, color is on everyone’s mind at the Heard Museum right now. This context may explain the decision to devote May’s collection spotlight to color, and to one specific color only. The focus is cochineal, a color that took center stage in the 2013 Heard Museum exhibit, Chocolate, Chili and Cochineal: Changing taste around the world. According to the label copy from that exhibit, the color has been around for millennia: “Cochineal, a tiny insect that feeds on the prickly pear cactus, was used to produce a dye in parts of Mexico and South America as early as the second century B.C.” The global influence of this captivating color ranges from the early 15th-century adoption by the Roman Catholic Church to a 21st-century controversy when Starbucks revealed using the dye as food-coloring.
The following four selections from the Library collection explore the impact of cochineal on trade, tastes and tradition throughout its long and fascinating history. These examples providing a variety of perspectives on and processes of the uses of this sought-after color are currently on display in the public reading area of the Library. For more details or additional collection information, click on the link labeled Library Catalog Search located in the pull-down menu of the Library tab on the Heard Museum website.
Greenfield, Amy Butler
Perfect red : Empire, espionage, and the quest for the color of desire
New York : Harper Perennial, 2006
Heard call number TP925.C63 G74 2006
Padilla, Carmella and Barbara Anderson, editors
Red like no other : how cochineal colored the world; an epic story of art, culture, science and trade
New York, NY : Skira/Rizzoli ; Santa Fe, NM : Museum of International Folk Art, ©2015
Heard call number TP925.C63 R43 2015
Cochineal red : the art history of a color
New York : Metropolitan Museum of Art ; New Haven [Conn.] : Yale University Press, 2010
Heard call number TP925.C63 P49 2010
Red dyes : cochineal, madder and murex purple : a world tour of textile techniques
Asheville, NC : Lark Books, c1997
Heard call number TP925.C63 S27 1997