An Ode to Pink

 The Elements at Work, mixed media on paper, 25" x 25", 2014

The Elements at Work, mixed media on paper, 25" x 25", 2014

What is pink? Pink is a movement. Pink is gender identity. Pink is femininity. Pink is therefore off limits to some people. Pink is embraced, reviled, and worshipped. One thing it is not is ignored.

Pink is a color phenomenon at this juncture in American culture. Everyone has an opinion on pink, and a personal interpretation.

In 2000, I created 21 pink paintings as part of my BFA Thesis at the University of Denver. Why pink? I wasn't sure- I just loved this pale pink color I could create with titanium white and alizarin crimson oil paint. I went wild with brush strokes and texture, and was told that I had "made pink look tough" by one of my professors. Which, I thought, was a rather odd comment. I had never thought of pink as weak, but there it is.

Why do people scoff or worse, recoil, when a little boy is dressed in pink? Why does every little girl I meet tell me her favorite color is pink? Why do I have so many conversations with fellow artists, collectors, gallerists and curators about the color pink?

 I love pink. Light pink, dark pink, fuschia, magenta, rose, salmon, opera, quinacridone- give me one of each. Let me fill a painting with pink. I add the color, in some form, to nearly every painting I make. If you look closely, it is there.

Pink is love. Pink is passion. Pink is beauty, softness, grace, power. Pink is here to stay.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Every painting is a journey.

One of the most common questions I am asked as an artist is how long it takes to complete a painting. This question does not surprise me. The process of making art is foreign to many. And abstract art, despite existing in the cultural lexicon since at least the late 19th century, remains mysterious in its meaning or worth, leading to the dreaded declaration, "My kid could do that."

It's true. Kids make great art. But, I'm going to show you how I make art.

I don't know how a work starts. Something strikes me- a word, a color, an image from nature, a shape I feel like making, a composition that has been flashing behind my eyes as I drift to sleep- that incites a need to create. I head to the studio. I prep the canvas or paper, lay it out on table or easel. I mix up my color, dip my brush, and I start. Immediately I react to what I just did, adding new color, a charcoal or graphite mark, or a shape, repeating the process until I built up to a composition that feels like it has balance.

The process can take minutes, hours, days, weeks, years. I never really know. Sometimes I sit with a piece for months, photograph it, market it, and then a few months later, paint over it.

This is a painting I began months ago. I painted it at the same time as two other pieces, and had some extra paint to use up from those paintings, so I quickly did began this one. Then it sat in my studio until two days ago, when I finally decided that it wasn't finished.

I initially liked how fresh it felt, and the lightness of the marks. I love simple paintings. But this one didn't last as a design. It needed more. Here is the story of where it went from there.

 

At first, I added some drawn charcoal lines and shapes, and started painting in more colors: turquoise, green, navy blue, gray. I turned the piece upside down to take a look at how the design drew the eye through it, and how "balanced" it seemed (did the parts on one section relate to parts on another section). Did the parts relate to the whole? Did some stick out, or become distracting? I decided to keep going.

I actually forgot to photograph the step in between these two steps, but no matter: it was terrible. WAY too much pink. I had nicknamed the painting "Miami." Yikes. Here's where I went from there, subduing the warm colors, and building up the surface more.

More blues, more grays, more greens, more layers. I turned the piece around again, and covered up quite a bit of the underpainting with cool colors. Shapes begin to connect through the middle, creating relationships in the composition, moving the eye around the piece like guideposts or bridges, from one section to the next.

I felt like the piece was at a stopping point, or almost. I just needed one more thing...

BitsandPinks-Progress3.jpg

More blue.

Where will it go from here? I'm not sure. I'm sitting with it for awhile longer...

What do you think?

Learning to See Color- An Exhibition

Is color the same everywhere for everyone?

What does color “mean”?

How have artists attempted to control color?

These questions are just a few of those posed by a rich and varied exhibition at the Victoria Myrhen Gallery at the University of Denver’s School of Art & Art History, opening next week, January 14th.  Contemporary artists from throughout the United States as well asmodern masters like Josef Albers and Helen Frankenthaler will have work on display that explores the complexity and nuance of color in art.

This show is co-curated by Jeffrey Keith, a renowned visual artist, color theory expert and University of Denver professor (and my former mentor), and Dan Jacobs, the Director of the Victoria Myrhen Gallery.

For those of you in the Denver area, or with plans to travel there soon, this show is a must-see! For more information, go to http://vicki-myhren-gallery.du.edu/.

What is Color Identity?

(Or, what makes a color feminine or masculine?)

My former mentor and art professor once gave me an exercise to push through a painting block I was experiencing. He said, “Make two paintings that are the most ugly paintings you have ever seen. Use every color you hate, and put them all into the same painting. Really go for it- try to make these paintings so hideous you cannot stand it. Get ugliness out of your system.”

I love color challenges. This was not my first from him- I had studied with him for many years by that time, and was fresh out of graduate school, stuck in the series of paintings I was working on, and needing something new. His challenge propelled me into another series, one very different from the work I had completed for my master’s thesis.

Years later I learned to pose color challenges for myself on a regular basis. I usually do this by limiting the palette I am working with, or trying to create a “mood” through my color choices in my work.

The past year has been an exploration of feminine and masculine color schemes.

As an artist I bristle at being called a “female artist”— why is there an indicator of gender needed; no one calls an artist a “male artist” — yet we live in a culture that places meaning on color. I call these Color Identifiers, also known as Color Analogues. Color can identify as masculine, feminine, or it can be both, depending on the contextual colors around it. This dichotomy compelled me in the studio, and my work evolved largely because of it.

After making what I call “pretty paintings”, which felt incredibly feminine, I found myself pushing into the masculine world of color in 2015. I noticed that so-called “male artists” that I admired had very different approaches to color, allowing the ugliness of colors to co-exist with the beauty of color— and within the same piece. This is a complex and sophisticated undertaking, and a huge color challenge. As examples I look to artists like Tim Hussey, Brian Coleman, and John Wood, whose works dance that line of beautiful and unattractive, a visual exploration of the French term “jolie laide,” in which a person is seen as “attractive but not conventionally pretty.”

Interestingly, I am not the only one exploring the color juxtaposition of “male” and “female” colors. Pantone chose two colors for the Color of the Year in 2016, a pale rose pink and lavender blue, to express our culture’s current obsession with gender identity and dynamics.

What also interests me about this process is the relationship I have with "feminine" colors as light, pale, pastel, warm, beautiful or pretty, and "masculine" colors as harsh, dark, muted, cool and unattractive. Where does that subconsciously come from?

Let me know what you think of my work- does it seem “feminine” or “masculine” to you? Does it bridge that gap as I intended? What are your “color identifiers”?