Archive for November, 2011

Black and White

November 26, 2011

Black and White

I am an artist – a child of the universe, rich in laughter, love and life, who dares to unwrap the universe’s gifts in my own truth. I create “Wonderfully Whimsical Works of Art by Sharon Martini” in which the colors black and white feature prominently. I outline the solid blocks of vibrant color that make up my pictures with black lines, and partner black and white in the borders.

As much as red – bright, blood, scarlet, primary red – is my absolute favorite color, I do not consider my creations complete without an abundance of black and white. To me black and white are the yin and yang of my creations, balancing out my compositions. Sort of day and night, dark and light, without either of which, none of my illustrations can be whole.

I love the way the contrast of the colors together, side-by-side, create harmony and balance, equilibrium in my drawings, informing me of their completion. Individually, their active energy sparkles, sharpens, defines and renders tangible my imagination. For me, the colors black and white are necessary, both stimulating and calming components of my two and three-dimensional creative world.

In contemporary Western society however, these two colors can facilitate chaos, consternation and frequently, cruelty. Black and white typically symbolize opposites; the dichotomy of good and evil, love and hate, angels and demons. They are loaded with cultural, spiritual, societal and linguistic connotation. To ascertain why this might be, when for me, black and white means artistic bliss, let’s take a look at the “stories” of black and white, beginning with the color aspect?

If you take a color wheel, you will find red, yellow, orange, purple, blue, green, and hues in between. No matter how hard you twist, turn, or spin the wheel though, you will not find the colors black or white.

According to The American Heritage Dictionary, color is defined as, “The visible aspect of things caused by the differing qualities of the light reflected or emitted by them. A dye, pigment or paint that imparts a hue and skin tone.” So far so good, I am, as I mentioned earlier, partial to black and white paint in my artwork.

Delving further into definitions, black is defined as, “The achromatic color of maximum darkness; the color of objects that absorb nearly all light of all visible wavelengths.” White is defined as, “The achromatic color of maximum lightness; the color of objects that reflect nearly all light of all visible wavelengths.” Ah hah! Black and white are colors, of a kind. They are achromatic colors – colors without hue yet incorporate all colors on the color wheel.

Fine, fabulous so far. Let us now peek at some black and white synonyms. For black we have, soiled, (as from soot,) dirty, evil, wicked, depressing, gloomy, angry, sullen, morbid, dark. And white ones include, but are certainly not limited to, light-colored, pale, blank, unsullied, pure, snowy, incandescent, clean. Oh my! The scales are definitely tipping in favor of one color over the other, instigating division, as we dive into descriptions. I mean, if it’s a choice between “evil” and “gloomy” or “incandescent” and “pure,” is there really any competition?

Still, it’s only language. With the aforementioned lists in mind, let’s compare some traditional, religious and/or societal interpretations and meanings.

  • The medieval Christian sect known as the Cathars viewed black as a color of perfection.
  • In the Ifá tradition the orisha Obatala is represented with white – calmness, morality, old age, and purity.
  • In the Japanese culture, Black is associated with honor, not death. Kuro (black) is a symbol of nobility, age, and experience. The black belt is a mark of achievement and seniority in many martial arts.
  • In Japanese culture, White is associated with death. Shiro (white), symbolizes serfdom, youth, and naiveté. In Shotokan karate, a white belt is a rank-less belt which comes before all other belts.
  • Black is a symbol of mourning and bereavement in Western societies.
  • In Chinese, Vietnamese, Korean, and Japanese and Indian tradition, white is the color of mourning and death.
  • In the Maasai tribes of Kenya and Tanzania, black is associated with rain clouds, a symbol of life and prosperity.
  • To whitewash, means to obscure the truth by issuing a blanket of lies. Also it is the action of burying or shoving someone’s face into the snow, as a form of bullying, or harassment.

From those few examples one can see that mixed in with the purity, calmness, perfection and mourning of the black and white color stories, there is much contradiction and confusion. It’s all in the interpretation, and consulting again the color wheel, I am reminded that black and white are everywhere and nowhere.

So, I am sticking with mine own interpretation – balance, harmony, artistic bliss and equilibrium. It is, quite simply, black and white.

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Color Conscious…

November 7, 2011

“Brownings, Please” So exclaimed the headline of the Jamaica Gleaner, one Sunday, September last. Even before reading the article, and fully aware that I am still learning to fully comprehend variegate Jamaican vernacular, I felt quite secure in my determination that this was not about cooking. I was reminded of a TV programme I watched last year while flying back to Portland, Oregon from Montego Bay.

That show was CNN’s “Kids On Race: The Doll Study Revisited.” In a recreation of a 1947 experiment, a group of children were asked to choose the good, bad, ugly, pretty or “one that looks like me” doll from drawings ranging in hue from pale pink to dark chocolate, or, white to black. Almost across the board when asked to select the “doll” with positive traits the children chose the “white” one. When picking the negatives, yep you guessed it, they picked the darkest dolly, the “black” one.

Though not my first time observing this type of experiment and sadly, not surprised, my heart still ached as I questioned, again, how it was that, Anno Domini 2011, sixty plus years on, with the leader of the “free” world a milk-coffee-colored cousin, that the “barely out of diapers” future leaders of our world (and as current headlines imply, suit clad corporate leaders) continue to learn, and believe to the detriment of hue-manity, these putrid but persistent lessons? What are we adults teaching our children? And why are we adults perpetuating the madness? Obviously something is a miss. (Incredulous, I ask myself, and anyone who can hear, “Why are we still having this conversation?”) Something is not working, or then again, maybe that was the plan all along. But I digress.

It has shocked and saddened me during my journeys to the land of my parents, my ancestors; the home of my own vagabond, or wandering, soul, that the same self-hatred and disdain for one’s darkness, blackness, abundance of melanin, visibly evident African heritage, that reigns and rages, in the United States of America (and beyond) permeates this – rich, bounteous of spirit, heart and life – little island of Jamaica.

My mother had told stories of when as a child, being darker of hue and shackled with the twin shame of poverty, her “place” was in the back of the classroom at the “good” school she attended, and even that only because her mother washed its floors. Still, I say to myself that was then…

Will we, and I mean all of hue—manity, learn the truth of whom we truly are and what skin shade simply is at its core? Can we purge ourselves of the poisons we have been fed, disguised as lessons and learning; the blatantly illogical yet pernicious lies that corrupt us, our colors, our consciences, our compassion? Can we reclaim our power, take back our hearts, reaquaint with ourselves? Can we become the conquistadores of our own personal Freedom?

What if one knew that melanin is what colors us, what paints us uniquely in shades from milk to midnight; that technically, it is due either to abundance or deficiency, that we humans become black or white.

What if it was common knowledge that melanin is what darkens our skin, our hair, our eyes? Melanin helps us hear, colors our hearts, our blood, liver, the marrow in our bones, and gave “birth” to the stars.

What if you knew that melanin is protector, reflector, diviner, deflector, healer, highway-to-the-Divine; the almighty alchemist; the chemical of life? One-drop being sanctifier not stain – the key to life’s door?

What if you knew that billions of dollars of global government monies have been spent, and are continuing to be spent, studying melanin…and its magic?

Melanin is the most absorbent material known to man. It is melanin in a synthetic form that provided the insulation protecting the electrical wires of the now retired NASA Space Shuttle.

What if these truths were known to all human kind?
Imagine with me for a moment…

A rending of the cloak of inferiority, victim-hood, self-hatred, worn by the melanin-infused among us; this cloak woven and gifted “in the name of love, and God.”

The silencing, once and for all, of the perpetually repeated lies of white supremacy. The diminishing of the potency and power of color prejudice, and its big daddy racism.

We all, each one of us of every hue, have (are) melanin. What if we all knew and understood this?

What if commonsense/the universe/Sophia/wisdom/Goddess/God, whispered and we listened, really listened to her, “If you need a touch of melanin just to function, might that suggest the more you have, the greater thou can be?

Could humankind walk hand in hand, freed, no longer needing to run, hinder, hide, detach, crush, control, squelch, the “other;” able finally, to let go, relax and open to the unique foibles and fortes of each individual, no matter their skin tone?

Imagine knowing, deep in your heart, in the marrow of your bones, in your soul, in your melanin, that, like chlorophyll to plants, melanin to man, is the alpha and the omega?

No person, rule, wrong, “Doll Study” or “Brownings, Please” could ever take that away.