Spectrum

A series of color portraits

"Spectrum" is a thesis on the phenomenology of color. Originally part of a doctoral dissertation at the University of California, San Diego, my series of paintings meditates on color in nature as I experience it. As a set they offer a treatise of natural color while troubling the idea that there is a "natural" state of color. We experience tones visually, (with a small minority of humans experiencing it through synesthesia or through the blind experience) but this is always constituted through other truths of color: their names, their histories, their uses, their places in our lives. For me, color is always rooted in a foundation of flora and fauna. Pigments used to color artificially created objects are perpetually in contest with an "original" color produced outside of human contact (except in cases of human-influenced selection). Color is also dynamic and never static. It cannot be captured as a field, but rather must be compiled as a collage of the different angles, shapes, textures, and materials through which it is animated. One never simple sees a color, but instead sees one specific moment, angle, size, distance, and refraction of a color. Is it opaque? Is it glossy? Does it hold moisture or does it feel chalky? Colors are always relative to their environment, and to truly understand the idiosyncrasies of a color you need to experience it against not its opposite but its relatives. To specify a burgundy you must compare it to all other similar tones. Is it warmer? Richer and more saturated? Less shiny? More muted? Placing a color against its opposite creates easily discernible division and jolts the viewer, making it a useful tool for visual media, but for me personally it is often disrespectful of the colors. Think about the commonly cited optical illusion where a red square is placed on a field of green and a field of purple. To most, these squares appear to be different shades, one more orange then the other, when in "fact" they are the same. But they are not. If you see them as different colors, they are in fact different. To place a color against its opposite alters that color, which isn't inherently bad, but it makes it difficult to empathize with the color on it's own terms. Because there are no "neutral" colors, placing it against white or black or gray still alters the color itself. Only positioning a color in tandem with its family allows it to speak its truth more subtly, rather than having to shout.

This is how I experience color, as a kind of empathetic discussion. When I'm pursing a truth of a color, I do everything in my power to provide it the environment that allows it to speak for itself and make itself known to me on its own terms. In this sense I actively socialize with color in my everyday life. I relate to colors in a similar way that most people relate to other humans, sometimes animals. I have close friends for life, acquaintances that occasionally become temporarily important, I have exes and crushes and I frequently fall in love. And this series, "Spectrum," is in fact a love story in the form of a series of portraits of color.

Follow the links to each piece to learn more about these portraits and my relationships with each color.