I have always had an interesting relationship to color and pattern, it’s almost impossible for me to think of one without the other; as someone who has always been interested in art and fashion this isn’t very shocking. I think the reason I love color so much is that it has so much power. As human beings, we love color. Our obsession with color has led to much advancement in the arenas of science, technology, apparel and beyond. One of the phenomena I’ve noticed is that people are intimidated by color in their wardrobe more often than not. I’m not sure if the fear comes from not being able to mix and match color, or if people genuinely dislike color. I personally have been trying to add more color, exploring complex color and pattern combinations in my own wardrobe however the affinity for black, navy, brown and grey within our culture has made it hard for my plus sized body to find the interesting garments I crave.
For years I have avoided wearing colors and clothing that broadcast too much, or spoke too loudly. I, like many queer people, am expressly aware of the way clothing can speak before you do about how you present your sexuality and your gender. As a matter of safety, more than care of others’ opinions, I have avoided clothing that is too feminine or queer often meaning colorful (style and fit also come into play here). Certain colors have been gendered; pinks, purples and yellows aren’t masculine colors unless used in ways that subvert them, like trimmings on athletic gear or as an in your face affirmation of ones “fragile masculinity” as if daring someone to question their use of “feminine” colors. Often times people don’t figure out that color is their friend until they are older and don’t care what people think anymore. It’s interesting to consider the concepts we have attached to colors, but I think that’s a huge part of my artistic process.
As a visual artist I love to use color, and I try not to let any color intimidate me when I’m working. Within this culture, people who wear too much color stand out, and within my artwork I take advantage of color’s command as a means to explore our emotional and psychological response to color. We often think of color as an accessory, but we expect color in art; thanks to the many artists of the impressionist period however, color can be explored on it’s own and for it’s own sake. I’m always consciously, and subconsciously, thinking about the color associations we have. A lot of those thoughts come from my history as a costume designer and using the phycology of color to influence character on the stage. In the same way, we use color to build ourselves each day. In that sense, each piece I make attempts to look at how color can be bent to discuss itself as well as race, gender or sexuality, as the pieces sit next to each other, they start different conversations simply through color associations.
As an artist who often discusses race within my work, I am very careful when I use black and white because often race conversations in America are about who is black and who is white. Race is much more complicated than any binary discussion, and I also try to make a point not to talk about whiteness to talk about blackness; they are not opposites in race or as colors/hues. I try not to present myopic views of blackness by using literal black to represent black people. Many artists are able to do that with immense skill which I love (Kerry James Marshall for sure does an amazing job with that), but for me all the colors I use can represent black people because there are a myriad of ways to be black; within my work Black people are purple, red, yellow, green, and aquamarine. The color white in my work is not representative of white people, but often it’s hard to separate the two because whiteness represents purity, power and hope. I am careful about how I use color because I want to make sure my use of color is unique to my thoughts. I don’t think I’m saying or doing anything new or exciting with color, however without my exploration of color, I have nothing. As I go forward, I want to explore even more with color adding pattern, texture and beyond until I feel I have exhausted the entire palette available to me.