COLOR [Part 1]
[At Pickthorn BK]
By Paul McLean
Colour is the place where our brain and the universe meet. - Paul Klee 
What is the first color you experienced, your first memory of color? What is your favorite color? What are the colors you associate with your favorite place, your favorite person?
Do you dream in color?
I try to apply colors like words that shape poems, like notes that shape music. - Joan Miró
Before the world of words governs our senses, we experience the world through the senses, as they are forming, a function of our biology. Our eyes are our first "windows to the world." [Sorry, if you grew up where there are no houses with windows. Let's agree, for the purposes of this brief text, that you can use any metaphor you like to describe the child's emerging perception of color, before focus, before form is defined into definition, before we can put two and two together to make a four. You can think of your eyes as - for example - "Escape? There is one unwatched way: your eyes. O Beauty! Keep me good that secret gate." ― Wilfred Owen] For you synethetics out there, those of you, including folks with Chromesthesia, who associate or confuse one sense with another, we'll get to you shortly. In art today we call that being multidisciplinary. I call it being Dimensional. Color most certainly is dimensional!
Roughly four-fifths of the sense-data we humans process arrives through our eyes. Our brains are hardwired to our eyes. Through those amazing bio-mechanical orbs, we can detect about ten million color hues. That's a lot!  Try listing all the color variations you can make in Photoshop with your color palette. It will take you a very long time! Cory Archangel  has made some nice art with this tool. You should check it out. The possibilities are practically endless, and the software program makes it all so easy to do yourself! Unfortunately, or fortunately, depending on how you look at it, for artists and others who design with color elements, this is the crux. You just have to choose ONE color out of all those millions of choices. Artists are frequently serious about choosing the "right" and only one. Good luck!
I work with few colors, what creates the illusion of quantity is that they fell in the right place. - Pablo Picasso
It takes time for a person to conceive a perceptually cohesive world. Color is one of the unifying elements for that perceptual cohesion that binds the world to itself, and to our experience of it. As Milo Santini likes to put it, "Color is the memory of what is happening to us in any given moment, right now."
As the senses form, under natural circumstances, our world comes into being, too. At least, the world as we perceive it does. Before we know what it is, what it is called, what it means, before we know what should be happening next, the world is a continual, perceptual experience that we receive. I study communications and media as part of my dimensional practice. In that particular context, receiving information is a function of information (a kind of energy) being transmitted. Where there's a receiver, there's a sender.
Back to babies, but thinking of our tiny time as "little creatures," relative to sender-receiver protocols: if we were transmitting anything (which could be coded in or as color? one wonders) up to the moment we utter our first intelligible word, those messages we were sending, to whom we were sending these baby transmissions?
At any rate, we forget it all by the time we know how to ask for more milk or whatever.
Question: Who or what in the universe might be sending the color, or programming it, in the form(s) we receive it? /and, are we sending that color-data back to the original sender, translated through our optic apparatus, as a message of some kind? If so, what exactly is the medium of these transmissions? What, in other words, is the medium for color? [We artists have, in collaborations with alchemists over the millennia, a whole range of media for color... What is yours, and what is native?]
So, this conjecture posits that maybe those little baby transmissions are made up of color. Maybe color is the medium of our earliest communions. & Maybe artists are the ones among us who insist on staying in touch with whomever it was the rest of us were talking to in color way back when we were tiny living things, little transmitters wholly dependent on the benevolence of those who care(d) for us.
As soon as we introduce "care" into the mix, we add feelings as a component. We are, after all, speaking of the human relation to color, which consists essentially of RGB (red-green-blue, in all its triparteid variants). Whatever color is, it is deeply intertwined with our feelings, the world we experience in the absence of words, and then the world we try to describe with words, as expression of what is happening inside of us, which we wish to share outside of us. Poetry and color are linked this way. It is little wonder that poems so often demonstrate the striving of the poet to convey those internal sensations to us that people experience in common - feelings of love, loss, discovery, togetherness, fear, and so on, the very stuff of inner, immaterial experience - through the means of color.
What is vermillion feeling? What is a crimson experience? How does azure feel? Is it feeling blue?
In our life there is a single color, as on an artist's palette, which provides the meaning of life and art. It is the color of love. - Marc Chagall
We can begin to notice how complex our experience of color is. It is durational. It is indelibly imprinted on the experiences of our lives. It inhabits our most fervent drives to express ourselves, for ourselves, to others, or for the sake of expression itself, which edges us closer to the realm of art. Color patches the world to our consciousness in sometimes subtle, sometimes obvious ways, through processes that are not only optical. Color lives inside the fabric of our awareness of the world, and seeps with every day and night into the fabric of our very selves, as determined, at least to a degree, by "the world," the universe(s) beyond our direct experience. Color is not just perceptual; it is physical, of physics, and metaphysical. When we peer into the cosmos, we discover color: e.g., the "red" planet is Mars. There is a science of color that eventually reveals what everything is made of, the Elements, which science boils down to a handy chart, to which a spectrum is attached. How fulfilling, though, is the science of color, the artist and poets ask, when juxtaposed with the infinity of experience we can attach to color, absolutely without the knowledge or aid of science. Color predates science, by a lot. If we made a chart, a data visualization, that describes color on a timeline, and then juxtaposed that chart with the existence of human science, science would be very tiny indeed on our scale. Also, what is the color of science?
Color, we find the more we look, is big. Color is deep and mysterious, and traces its beginnings to the very beginning of Everything. It is a rabbit hole, a wonderland, an origin story, itself, all-in-one. On human scale, on a personal note, the idea of life without color is the seed for stories of desire and separation. Naturally, people think it miraculous when the sight of the blind is restored, and one would imagine that color has something to do with that. Black and white photography for instance is a fine genre, but isn't it always contingent on its colorized (REAL) version? Isn't colorless vision inextricable from our projection of color into the picture? While that may be true, even in the negation of universal color, we can find drama - think Woody Allen's Manhattan. Look at it another way, as a luxurious exercise for the imagination, this play of color and its absence or negation - which is the void, or space, or dark matter, even. Light is after all a force imbued in the field of color. Color may even be the domain of light. Then we realize how strong color is, by definition, in its capacity to withstand instances of complete desaturation (to use the Photoshop language). The weave of color is so rich, it allows for us to imagine what existence might be like without it, while still permitting us to feel, even more, the value of coloring the moment.
In closing, I would reference the septs of the Highland clans, the colors that define each tribe. The weavers who make our tartans, our tribal dress, pass this special color data (our collective identity) from one generation to the next, as a sign of perpetuity, continuity, through time. Color is, for people, dimensional. And I would mention additionally the directional function of color for tribal people, such as the Lakota. West is black. The North is Red. The East is Yellow. The South is White, and so on. Each direction contains the narrative of the people, its history, culture, mythology, catalog of the world (none of these terms arises out of the indigenous perspective, by the way). The West is the Thunders. The North is the buffalo. The East is the deer, and the South is the eagle. Not only does the color associate with direction, it is embedded in the wheel of life, individual and collective, for whole nations of real people. The traits of the oyate are traceable to color, and to everything that is relative to color, which is Everything, everything that moves. This is wisdom for the ages, for humanity.
I found I could say things with colors that I could not say in any other way, things for which I had no words. - Georgia O'Keeffe
Poetry and music share often share rhythm, which is time-based. In nature the rhythm of life, in the seasons, plays out in the domain of color, or its appearance/disappearance. The details depend on one's location. ...But let's stop here for now. We will dance in color in Part 2 of this text.
One last thought, in the real world color is not ever twice the same. Any good printer will agree with this statement. In fact, there is no such thing as artificial color, separate from the rest of the universe of color. Think of that the next time you notice some outlandish, or beautiful hue, even if it exists currently in the form of molded plastic, highly processed food product or appearing on the monitor of your computer, etc.
 All the artist quotes come from here: http://susiegadea.com/index.php/en/quotes-by-artists/on-allies-of-technique/color [Disclaimer: AFH is not the author of the cited material, and has no knowledge at this time of whether the quotes are properly sourced. (They all sound good, and about right. That's the poor man's digital humanities for ya! - Milo)]
 I found a fun optics refresher here: http://news.softpedia.com/news/10-Amazing-Facts-and-Myths-About-Eyes-74813.shtml [Disclaimer: See disclaimer in footnote  above; insert "science" for "quotes;" and "online science" for "digital humanities." - MS]
 Cory has a way-cool website: http://www.coryarcangel.com/things-i-made/2007-015-photoshop-gradient-and-smudge-tool-demonstration [My favorite is "Photoshop CS: 84 by 66 inches, 300 DPI, RGB, square pixels, default gradient "Yellow, Blue, Red, Green", mousedown y=0 x=16700, mouseup y=0 x=12600" - PJM]