If ever there was an artist known for working with color it’s Dale Chihuly. His wild, extravagant sculptures push the limits of glass, that material we think of as fragile but utilitarian, until it seems weightless and plastic. Born in 1941 Chihuly is an American glass sculptor who has spent years exploring, teaching, and expanding the field of glass sculpture. He studied art, sculpture and interior design before, in 1968, heading off to Venice to study glass as a Fulbright fellow.
He continued to blow glass himself even after a car accident left him blind in one eye. He was injured by his pet material when he flew through the car windshield. Years later a shoulder injury left him unable to manage the equipment and he had to hire assistants. This stepping back, getting a view of the big picture turned out favorably for the artist as the complexity and grandeur of his pieces grew.
Chihuly’s style developed a maximalist revelry in both shape and color. His fantastical and organic pieces like plants lured from a Doctor Seuss book were allowed to grow huge and bulbous. And with this scale came a change from individual blown pieces to the creation of a community of glass pieces. This sense of collective shape, of cumulative color, of superorganism, all expand glass from the one off individuals of utilitarian or even craft focused glass into the wider art conversation.
Chihuly shows us that individual, distinct colors or shapes, can be dropped in favor of environments of objects and gradients of colors. We experience color and shape not as separate from their location but as locations themselves. His work shows us that when we think about color it can be in three dimensional surround sound. Sometimes abandon leads to our greatest creative breakthroughs.
A recent post on the NPR Picture Show
caught our color loving eyes this week. The article was focused on the colorization of old photographs, specifically of the March on Washington held this time 50 years ago. Each image is an original period photograph taken of the march and surrounding events then painstakingly colored in Photoshop by individuals online.
The recolored and black and white photographs are beautiful next to one another. The recolorizations bring to life what would otherwise feel like a black and white moment from our deep past. and while Fifty years marks a long time in the technological advancements that have led to the ubiquity of color photography, for social change fifty years is only a beginning.
Then this comparison caught our eye.
Colorized by Sanna Dullaway (left) and Deborah Humphries (right).
The article gives something of a passing thought to the idea that different artists approach the colorizing in different ways. Here Sanna Dullaway’s image, on the left, and Deborah Humpries image, on the right show clearly not just the two women’s different choices in color of clothing, nail polish, and skin tones, but how the color choices influence the tone of the entire image. And as we here at Colour Studio continue to profess: color has meaning all its own.
Now, there is no way to pronounce one approach more valid than the other but we should recognize that the warm hazy glow of the left produces in the viewer different emotional reactions and interactions than the cool crisp high contrast of the right image. On the left the day feels hot, the air heavy with humidity, like a southern afternoon. The water is green, more natural, more lake like than man made reflecting pool. On the right the blue water and higher contrasts ring of drama, the energy of cities, and maybe even edgy impatience.
The color choices of the artist interact with and change the way we see the images and in this case the way we see our actual history. But which portrayal of this groundbreaking moment is more authentic? At ease or on edge? Maybe the images together side by side, two visions, two experiences of the same moment are the best we can ever come to experiencing and understanding the March on Washington for ourselves. In this media centric age it is important to think about what we are seeing and these two stereoscopic view points show us our history and how color changes the way we view that history all at once.