I saw a blue jay today. It bounced across fence post and railings. It looked at me in the eye, judging if I was ok to be around. The breeze picked up and it flew off, catching the wind beneath its wings.
My closet is filled with blue shirts, denim and oxfords, my dresser is filled with blue jeans, my only good jacket is a brilliant blue denim jacket. Growing up my room was blue, a blue that seemed to engulf me. It was a deep navy blue, on dark nights, on stormy days it seemed to echo those feelings, capturing every inch of light and soaking it up deep into its pigment. On bright and sunny days it reflected that, it seemed to shine.
Growing up my parents had a color coding strategy for me and my brother. The only discernible difference between us as babies. His toenails were painted red and mine blue. Later this evolved to our shirts, maybe a hat, old pictures of us in red and blue fill photo albums.
When my grandmother died, we’d both watch the birds come to a hummingbird feeder she’d hung in the back, we’d watch the blue jays and the cardinals jump from tree to tree. I remember those streaks of red and blue flying from branch to branch. I wonder if my parents watched us like we watched the birds. Delicate and fragile running, through the backyard in our red and blue shirts.
In college I got sick of blue. I fell in love with the brilliant reds and oranges. I painted with warm burning colors, giant paintings of straight red and orange, prints of bright yellow on warm paper. I was surrounded by orange, and red, and yellow. I hated the way we talked about color. Assumptions made and histories ignored, culture and history didn’t matter. All in favor of basic assumptions made by a group of artist who just so happen to all have the same background.
Color is complicated, color is organic and moving, greens and yellows cause us to relax when they are inside of plants and flowers blooming. They cause us to stress printed on money and plastic cards. Color is contextual. A hot rod painted bright red, speeding down a mountain curve, with your friends in the back fills you with joy. A solid red hat with bright white text “MAGA” fills you with anger.
I paint and draw in muted pastels now, greens and pinks, lots of light oranges. In New Mexico I bought a green and pink blanket, we laid on it at white sands, brilliant bright blue sky above, white sands, greens and pinks beneath us.
My grandmother had green furniture, it migrated into our aunts house then to ours at some point. Our living room had a multi colored striped wardrobe. Years of photo albums sat inside it. It occurs to me now how these colors migrated to me. In looking back at the picture of me and my brother laying across her bright green couch it occurs to me that those colors have always been with me, somewhere in the back building history and meaning.
My parents new bay house is a blue green, like the waves that we watched growing up. The pylons are a beautiful natural wood, function over any design, they rise out of the concrete foundation, fade into a stained wooden deck and morph into a brilliant blue green that nearly blends in with the sky. not far off from that couch my grandmother had in her living room. The inside is a light blue, it pushes you out and pulls you in, encouraging you to beat the heat for one more brief moment by dipping your toes into the AC, then to sink back out into the greens and yellows and blues of the outside.
Color is emotional, it’s speculative, it’s moving and forming around us at all times.
I wear rose colored glasses now, bought with my closests friends in San Francisco. Driving through the mountains to a forest I stared out the window at all the warmth of the forest, the orange tinted leaves and vibrant red bark. We stepped out of the car and took off my glasses, the blue and greens shifted back into focus , I felt the rush of the cool air, a red bird flew from a tree.