On Chroma, Cows, and Christmas
“How would you suspend 500,000 lbs of water in the air with no visible means of support?” Answer: “Build a cloud.” — Bob Miller, Artist
A couple hundred years ago the art of Painting went from trade to profession. Color became a scientist’s tool for uncovering important information about our molecular structures, and artists were given the power to infect culture from the prestige of the wealthy and the critical thinking of academics.
Today, a similar infection of culture—emissions offsets, environmental commodities.
Today, the announcement of the scientific discovery of Kangaroo bacteria having the power to curb the methane expulsions out of a cow’s rear end, has a similar fashionable shimmer to it as Monet’s announcement that he is certain that the color of the atmosphere is violet, and that in three months everyone will be painting the sky in violet hues. To imagine a time where a painter’s intuitive discovery of color was as exciting and new then as today’s magazine advertisement to give the gift of an Emissions Neutralizer—Co2 offset credits, depending upon value can range from stocking stuffer to full blown big (green) boxed Christmas gift, is so fun to think about.
But why am I thinking about it?
I’m snowed in for one thing without a lot to do today but look out at what Delacroix called ‘no color’ –the white, blanketed earth. But I look for the color, because everything we can see and call color is an illusion of contract. We can’t see it out of relationship to other colors. Just because white isn’t a primary (or black) doesn’t make it not exist. That seems obvious to me, but I’m not a Delacroix. I’m a Sisk who paints in bold, bright and what the museum community calls regressive colors, because of children’s toys. And more directly, pertaining to often destructive, regressive events in our history and now, like war. A language system that uses bright colors to signal assertions of belief, threat, and what they are fighting for.
But white? The bright blanket of stillness I see out my window?
It’s the neutralizer, the non-message, the blank space, the place where light refracts upon itself. I have to say– it’s not neutral to me. The way the bright white doesn’t break and color is hidden somewhere underneath and somewhere above the clouds—to me, is anything but neutral. It’s overwhelming being forced to see the world around me as one monochromatic stretch. Now, if I could make a bed of tulips that would survive in this snow—along with a heat lamp on my deck and the ability to serve Christmas Dinner out there, this would be paradise.
When I was a skier—for only a short period of time, as I pummeled too many people on the slopes from my clumsiness—I felt no differently, blinded by white everywhere–happy though for the contrast of buildings and people around. How did the Eskimos do it?
Back to the exciting environmental explosion. Here we are, the world is breeding environmental tools, solutions, ideas like dust mites to dirt. How much is commodity, how much will save our planet? I wonder if 18th century Europe thought impressionism would save their lives—as it tickled their economy, serving royalty, created renewed energy in the church telling their stories within the architectures. Art may have saved lives at this time in history.
Back again to the environmental thread (see how it keeps becoming art?)
I design product interfaces for a living.
I’m designing one now—a really large and complex environmental bank that our government, corporations and energy generators will use to offset and manage greenhouse gases and energy. It’s an exciting space to be in. And I’m struck by the newness, the innovative conversations with my colleagues. I’m struck by the opportunities to say—the atmosphere is violet and see how the thinkers and doers organize their efforts around perception, need and business acumen, into environmental technology that helps save the planet and tickle our economy in new ways. Of course with that comes corrupt ways as well. But hey, there was Monet and then there was Van Gough. We seem to have learned from both in different ways.
• Dakota takes his usual contrarian posture with me. Give me snow, give me snow, I love to roll around in and dig in the snow. Who cares if your overly sensitive painter’s eye needs more color and contract or that you can’t get out of the garage to get food. I have food, I have snow, I have a warm girl bunny…get a grip! *
• Dakota is now three years old. I’ve given up on him changing his personality, so I throw snowballs at him. He thinks it’s a game. Yeah, right!
Related links to the essay:
If you are interested in immersion into a wonderful and brilliant blog on color—mosaics, photos, discussions, essays—you must go to: www.athenadreams.com
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