New York, New Color Factory

 

A trip to the latest Color Factory show in NYC calls for digging up my sister’s old Middle School era dress because it is a twirl-able rainbow incarnate. Dressed in the visible color spectrum and fully funded by my gracious department of History of Art & Architecture, I was ready to take in what this new iteration of The Color Factory had to offer - camera and notes in hand.

As I begin to fine tune the scope of my thesis, a project which I have spent years amassing color-related content for, I realize that part of what I want to tap into is the reason behind art’s newfound color craze. Specifically, how intrinsic qualities of color lend themselves to depicting ephemeral experiences in ways that other mediums cannot.

What I found in NYC was just that.

This version of The Color Factory focused on attendee’s relationships to each other and to themselves, using color as the catalyst. After entering through a rainbow tunnel reminiscent of the ribbon wall at Color Factory’s SF show, we were greeted with the most visually pleasing welcome video ever to grace my eyes. Once registering and picking up a sparkling macaron for the road ahead, we all entered through a tunnel boasting walls of buttons that directed us to select the color that most resonated with us. Naturally I chose a dusty rose button and joked that this tunnel visualized what I think my brain looks like.

On the other side, we were split up into two groups and funneled into a parlor room where we were seated across from someone and guided through a series of activities through coordinated audio. The premise of this room was to compliment. Sitting in complementary colors, my partner Alana and I were instructed to select colors that represented each other. We also had to do a contour drawing without breaking eye contact with one another, and then were treated with complementary, complementary candies tastefully chosen to pair well with each other.

Next up was a sound experience room where we each played notes from complimentary keys. Post the twinkling of our eardrums, we entered a room bathed in sunset and filled with balloons with wishes written on them. Trying to snag a photo in this room was like battling with a windstorm, and we ended up getting a handful of Magritte-esque Son of Man portraits. Exiting the sunset room led us to a roadmap of personality questions that ultimately deposited us at the door of our individual, secret color. Each room was grouped by hue, and afterwards we were directed to take a paint-chip style memento of our secret color, complete with a cue for the next room: a disco fever themed dance floor - where we could strike a pose based on the suggestion written on our secret color card.

For an educational interlude, there was a hallway with alphabetically organized vertical drawers that featured pigments and their color histories. Unsurprisingly, this room was created by Kassia St. Clair, author of The Secret Lives of Color - one of the many titles decorating my bookshelf and on the list of potential thesis sources in my never ending bibliography spreadsheet. In a similar vein, the next room presented us with pie charts of NYC stats, displayed in spin-able and boomerang-able benches.

Last up, similar to the SF show, was a wall to wall ball pit filled with the most soothing shade of blue. This was the point where my friends and I paused our analytical note-taking and just felt like kids again. And with that, the magic of The Color Factory was concluded, though the tingling feeling of being surrounded by such a happy collection of hues will provide the joy and motivation to carry me through the monochromatic winter months ahead.

Xx, Maia

 

"Practicing Color, Practicing Material"

 

It's almost summer time here in Cambridge, and the weather has finally started to realize that: the sun screams "shorts weather!" and the trees are all blossoming with a rainbow palette of hues. Suffice it to say, I'm a summer person, and not just because most of the clothing I own from Miami is made of linen. 

I love this time of year because the outdoors feel inspiring; like an endless field of adventures and creative pursuits that you can finally tackle now that school is over. Not to mention all the colors that catch your eye while you're walking around, now that it's finally warm enough to do so. 

It's no coincidence, then, that The Practice Space, "a storefront for art, design, and research," is all about color this time of year. Last Thursday, they hosted a workshop called, "Practicing Color, Practicing Material." And, given that I just turned in my thesis proposal and declared that the argument will be focused on color theory, it's no surprise that a professor in my department suggested I attend this workshop. Curiously, this storefront was also mentioned to me in an email exchange with Leah Rosenberg, a woman I had spoke with about her work with The Color Factory, some time ago. 

So my guidance to head to this workshop manifested twofold, and I promptly bought myself a ticket. Then I bought another, because who doesn't like a buddy? And then I received an email that I was the only person who had purchased tickets... The workshop soon turned into a romantic date night for two, with exclusive access to Nicole, co-founder of the space, who spoke excitedly with me about color. 

The workshop was advertised as:

Artists of all mediums - shake up your practice with some social art making and color play! This workshop begins with a short grounding activity, either walking or still, as a way of letting go and entering into a space of experimentation. Then, using paint, ink, sticks, palette knives, and brushes we engage in mark making and color mixing from various prompts. Our focus is on process and the experience of experimentation, rather than making a perfect finished product. You may even find your color mixing palette is the favorite thing you produce.

We began with said grounding activity: drawing an infinity loop with a pencil and allowing the mesmerizing motion to dull our daily lives. With each swoosh of the pencil, I felt like my mind was freeing of all its to-do lists and stresses, and opening up to feeling truly in the moment. 

After that activity, the three of us went on a color walk to focus on colors that stood out to us. The colors we remembered the most were hues we'd try to re-create in the studio using watercolors. Personally, I was instantly intrigued by a citrine-leafed tree we passed because it reminded me of all the glistening slices of spring that had sprouted up around campus. 

When we got back to the studio, we all practiced our color mixing on a shared sheet, and then transferred our favorite, "most accurate seeming" color onto a little card, for color matching another day. 

The whole activity of thinking about a color and re-creating it yourself, made me realize that memories are made and kept in so many different ways. Like when I was mixing reds and blues and whites to create a soft lilac, I stumbled upon a pinker mixture that instantly reminded me of my Bat Mitzvah invitations from way back when. It was comforting to me that I could access such a fond memory with simple brush strokes and dabs of water. 

At the end of the workshop, we left with open minds, happy hearts, and paint covered hands. I couldn't have imagined a more meditative way to capture the joy that spring and summer bring me. So thank you Nicole and The Practice Space for allowing me to explore, with my own hands, what color can do. 

Xx, Maia