I finally broke down a couple of months back and washed my painting smock. I can’t remember how many years I’ve owned it or if I had ever washed it before. Something about all the paint spots, splashes and swipes felt comfortable. Honestly, I wasn’t certain I wanted to see any of them disappear. Fortunately, the non-painted material was clean but the painted areas stayed firmly intact. I was relieved.
That smock traces the entire history of all the paintings I’ve made since the mid-1990’s. It does so in a random pattern that defies association with a particular work. The history of my work all on one fading blue canvas. So with every new work the story of my artwork expands. The works remain invisible in the maze that covers almost every inch of cloth. Whether I can associate each color with a result makes no difference. The colors are symbolic of the many creations made while I wear that smock.
The splotches of colors erratically decorating my apron resemble our lives. All of the experiences we have create the pattern of the people we become. A little cadmium red angry outbursts followed by crimson blotches of regret and embarrassment. Learning how to keep anger from controlling our reactions. And all those gorgeous blues.
Cheerful cerulean blue sky of an ideal spring day we hold in our hearts like a delicate piece of porcelain. Or the deep ultramarine blue of sweet music adding depth to our souls. Summer’s green and yellow when summer meant no school and no job. We remember those with complete fond abandon in many future day dreams. But there are colors that are not so lovely.
There’s the gray of a rainy winter day sitting bundled in the window of your 1920’s era college dormitory as the needle moved through the grooves of ‘Cold Rain’ by Crosby, Steels and Nash. The rain and cold symbolic of anguish over lost love or the pain of growing up. Then there’s black – the absence of color. The hue of a world darkened by loss, or death, or disappointment. But both the gray and the black are eclipsed by watching a lovely sunrise. The peace and quiet of early morning in a world that bombards us with noise and constant motion. The purples, peaches, and pinks enhanced by the aroma of your caramel colored coffee.
All of these colors and experiences blend to create the brilliance and purity that is white – every color in equal portions. We may never reach a perfect ratio but the blending is always occurring with every choice made, every step taken, and all the lessons learned. Personally I prefer all the colors of memories and future possibilities to perfection.