Green is the color of envy. White is purity. Gray is depressing, implying boredom. Blue is sadness. Ancient Romans thought of blue as an inferior color, though later it came to be associated with Mary. At some point in history, the Protestants wanted colors in chapels to be changed to black to reflect sin and penance. Eventually black would become the color associated with elegance and class, among other things. In Victorian times, yellow symbolized friendship, which led residents to plant yellow flowers near their front doors. Then there’s red. Anger. Danger. War. Seduction. Passion. In many Asian countries, red is also the color of happiness, often worn by brides. Recently, the subject of color and the many ways it weaves through our lives was explored in a stage production in Canada.
The production, “I Send You This Cadmium Red,” is based on a book of letters between two artists. John Christie originally sent John Berger a square of the cadmium red color. Back and forth they exchanged letters filled with musings on the subject of color in our lives. Two actors on stage read the letters with these musings. There’s the “red whose father is a knife,” and the “Red of young eyelids shut tight,” that eventually becomes a black color. Blue reminds them of Matisse and Charlie Parker, “who became Bird because he knew about blue.” Yellow conjures up memories of Van Gogh. And ultimately, it’s all just the perception of a couple of guys obsessed with a small facet of life but as with all art, it broadens the way we think of the world. Meanwhile, the use of cadmium in artists’ paints improves color fastness, but it’s being banned in some places due to its toxicity.
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