The phrase “unprecedented times” has been thrown around quite a bit these past few months as the world attempts to cope with a new normal in a world reshaped by the coronavirus. We have found ourselves spending more time in our homes than ever before, and our walls become more important the longer we are enclosed within them. The environment which we create inside our homes has the power to influence our moods and emotions—the art we select is an integral aspect of this environment.
The psychology of the color blue has been studied in depth, and it has been shown that blues evoke feelings of calmness and serenity and can even increase productivity. Blue is an omnipresent factor in our lives, filling the sky and the water with its seemingly infinite depth. Just as the color of the sky changes based on the position of the sun, weather patterns, and even pollution suspended in the atmosphere, the color of water can vary drastically by location, natural and synthetic chemicals in the water, and even by its depth. Nature has offered artists the widest possible range of blues to choose from—both Brenda Biondo and Mark Chen utilize these subtle variations of the sky in their abstract skyscapes, and Lou Vest’s images along the Houston Ship Channel frequently make use of the water as a strong visual motif. Though Deborah Bay’s work does not feature the sky or water, it relies heavily on the movement of light through colored gel filters, which deals with a similar process of the physics of light waves. Psychological responses to color can vary through different cultures, and language also shapes our perception—there is no one universal experience of color.
Another aspect of color theory is the tendency of certain colors to advance or recede within an image. It is commonly known that red advances while blue recedes, a property which has allowed artists to fabricate depth within two-dimensional images throughout art history. Since its inception, photography has been a useful tool to create realistic depictions of depth, but as artistic practices developed beyond the flat image, some photographers followed suite.
Many of the artists in this show manipulate their work beyond the traditional two-dimensional constraints of the medium. Karen Navarro breaks into three-dimensional space with her sculptural forms and chopped-up and pieced-together images. Paul-André Larocque puts his printed photographic collages on the floor to paint over the surface, creating a dialogue between the printed image and his vibrant, expressive brushstrokes. Joana P. Cardozo’s “cut-outs” reassemble already abstracted silhouettes and scraps through collage. Lou Peralta weaves everyday materials into her portraits to create a connection between the people and their cultural identities.
All art is referential—the rich history of art influences our associations of imagery, whether consciously or not. Blue has had a strong visual history, from the use of expensive lapis-lazuli to communicate wealth, to the instantly recognizable blue-and-white ceramics of Chinese pottery. Torrie Groening utilizes these popular ceramics in her photography with a bold, shattering twist. Claire Rosen’s lavish wallpaper backgrounds evoke the wealth and decadence of the Victorian Era. Robert Langham III’s quietly captivating cyanotypes call back to one of the earliest forms of the photographic medium. Julia McLaurin’s digital collages bring the historical imagery of classical paintings into an updated, contemporary dialogue. Margeaux Walter’s "Some Assembly Required" references a much more recent, yet equally recognizable cultural association of blue—that of Ikea’s branding.
Blue is one of the world’s favorite colors, and for a plethora good reasons. If there were ever a time to fill our lives with calming blues, this period of isolation is certainly it. While looking through this collection, consider your own personal associations with blue—maybe the colors of a favorite sports team, or the shirt you loved to wear the most as a child—and meditate on how these associations affect how you experience art. Finally, allow the art within these pages to alleviate some of your quarantine blues.
—Suzanne Zeller, 2020