Everyone has their favorite color or colors or color combinations. Through the ages colors have taken on a variety of symbolism and meanings. In 1994 Alexander Theroux published a collection of essays on various colors. The first volume was titled, The Primary Colors, the second volume was titled, The Secondary Colors. These two volumes reference everything one could possibly want to know about six specific colors. They helped me think about how prevalent color is in our everyday lives, how color grabs hold of our psyche, how it determines choices we make, how it affects us emotionally. These books helped me to fall in love with color. They are filled with history, drama and intrigue, all related to color.
I begin this new 2020 blog series with the color RED. Red is the most dramatic of colors and it’s all about the emotional attachment behind the color. It is the most popular color among women. Why? What is the first thing you think of when you think of RED? Is it blood, is it love, is it fire? Theroux states, “It is generally agreed that of all the colors, red has the strongest chroma and the greatest power of attraction.” Think of the attractive power of red cars (which statistically get more tickets than other colored cars), red jackets, red stop signs, red fire trucks, red roses, and where I live, red chile peppers. Think about the visual commercial impact of red logos, Coca-Cola, Santa Claus, Campbell’s Soup cans, Tabasco, the Red Cross.
Another favorite book about the history of color is, The Perfect Red: Empire, Espionage and the Quest for the Color of Desire, by Amy Butler Greenfield. This book presents us with the colorful history of cochineal, the red dye that was once one of the world’s most precious commodities, much like salt. Who could imagine that a tiny little bug that lived on a Mexican cactus could hold such control over the world’s super powers? Greenfield’s grandfather and great-grandfather were dyers and she has long been fascinated by the history of color. Her in depth research into the history of cochineal has produced a fascinating historical study and an enjoyable read about some of the greatest trade empires. I have shared my copy of her book with many of my artist and non-artist friends, all have loved it.
A more recent book (published in 2016) about the history of color is, The Secret Lives of Color, by Kassia St. Clair. St. Clair has chosen 75 intriguing colors to include in her book.
In an attempt to inspire artists to create new work for my gallery I began hosting monthly “Themed Shows”. Themes have ranged from the sublime to the ridiculous. Some of the most visually beautiful and enjoyable shows have been based on colors with “RED” being the most popular color show. I’ve included a few photos from an altered book (based on a old discarded Reader’s Digest book) I did for the show. The book is appropriately titled, “RED”. On one of the pages in the book I wrote a list of names for red from fabric color names to nail polish to lipstick names, “rouge, crimson, vermillion, madder, cherry, carmine, brick, ruby , copper, scarlet, maroon, coral, port, rust…etc”.
I also include some red-themed paintings I did for the “RED” show.
From Theroux’s book, “It (red) is a color with a strange gigantic life, an enigma encompassing everything from sunsets to the roseate tint of our insides. Red confounds us surely in its many meanings, for it is magic itself.”