Green Light

The Color Green

The color green is evoked by light which has a dominant wavelength of 495 to 570 nanometers, appearing in the visual spectrum between the colors blue and yellow. It is created in painting by the combinations of yellow and blue, or yellow and cyan. The shades of the color green range from yellow-greens, such as lime and avocado, to those with a blue tinge, such as emerald and turquoise. 

The English word ‘green’ comes from the Old English and Middle English word ‘grene, which like the German word ‘grün’, has the same root as the words ‘grass’ and ‘grow’, The first recorded use of the word as a term for a color in Old English is dated to about 700 AD. Although many languages, such as Germanic, Romance, Slavic and Greek, have old terms for “green’ which derived from words for vegetation, there is no identifiable single Proto-Indo-European source word for the word “green”. Linguistics studies indicate that all these terms were developed independently over time. 

In ancient Egypt, the color green was the symbol of rebirth and regeneration. Egyptian artists used the mineral malachite, finely ground, for painting on walls and on papyrus; this mineral was mined in the west Sinai and the eastern desert. Green had very positive associations for the Egyptians. A growing papyrus sprout represented the hieroglyph for the word green, linking the color to vegetation, vigor and growth. Osiris, the Egyptian God of the Underworld, was usually portrayed as having a green face, as seen in the tomb of Nefertari who reigned from 1295 to 1253 BC. Malachite amulets were worn for protection from evil and given to the dead to promote vigor in the deceased. 

The green pigment verdigris is made by placing a copper, brass or bronze plate, slightly warmed, into a vat of fermenting wine for several weeks. The green powder that forms on the metal is scraped off and dried. This pigment was used by the Romans in murals, and in Celtic manuscripts. It produced a blue-green color; but it was unstable and toxic. Verdigris was used in Persian and European paintings util the late 19th century, when it was replaced by the pigment chrome green. Vincent van Gogh used viridian, a more stable green patented in 1859, in a mixture of Prussian blue to create the green tinted sky in his 1888 painting “Cafe Terrace at Night”.

The use of the color green in painting plays an important role in the creation of naturalistic flesh tones, as seen in Duccio di Buoninsegna’s altarpiece “Maestà” at the Museo deli’Opera Metropolitana del Duomo in Siena, Italy. Its use in underpainting and glazing is seen in Jan van Eyck’s oil paintings and Paolo Uccello’s murals. Helen Frankenthaler used the color green almost exclusively in her 1992 “Overture”, one of her freest works, swirling green paint into vortices and and then dissolving it into rich patterns.  

Another example of the use of green was the installation work “Green Light Corridor” by Indiana-born artist Bruce Nauman which enforced the contrast between the perceptual and physical experience of space. He constructed two high walls spaced twelve inches apart, lit by green fluorescent bulbs hanging above the created corridor. Spectators walked through the tight space, the eyes adjusting to the green light. Upon exiting, their eyes adjusted again, causing them to see an optical illusion of the color pink, the opposite end of the color spectrum. 

Featured image” Helen Frankenthaler, “Overture”, 1992, Acrylic on Canvas, 70 x 94 Inches, The Helen Frankenthaler Foundation, New York

Sixteen Men and Aldous Huxley

“In regard to propaganda the early advocates of universal literacy and a free press envisaged only two possibilities: the propaganda might be true, or the propaganda might be false. They did not foresee what in fact has happened, above all in our Western capitalist democracies – the development of a vast mass communications industry, concerned in the main neither with the true nor the false, but with the unreal, the more or less totally irrelevant. In a word, they failed to take into account man’s almost infinite appetite for distractions.

In the past most people never got a chance of fully satisfying this appetite. They might long for distractions, but the distractions were not provided. Christmas came but once a year, feasts were “solemn and rare,” there were few readers and very little to read, and the nearest approach to a neighborhood movie theater was the parish church, where the performances though frequent, were somewhat monotonous.

For conditions even remotely comparable to those now prevailing we must return to imperial Rome, where the populace was kept in good humor by frequent, gratuitous doses of many kinds of entertainment – from poetical dramas to gladiatorial fights, from recitations of Virgil to all-out boxing, from concerts to military reviews and public executions. But even in Rome there was nothing like the non-stop distractions now provided by newspapers and magazines, by radio, television and the cinema.

In “Brave New World” non-stop distractions of the most fascinating nature are deliberately used as instruments of policy, for the purpose of preventing people from paying too much attention to the realities of the social and political situation. The other world of religion is different from the other world of entertainment; but they resemble one another in being most decidedly “not of this world.” Both are distractions and, if lived in too continuously, both can become, in Marx’s phrase “the opium of the people” and so a threat to freedom.

Only the vigilant can maintain their liberties, and only those who are constantly and intelligently on the spot can hope to govern themselves effectively by democratic procedures. A society, most of whose members spend a great part of their time, not on the spot, not here and now and in their calculable future, but somewhere else, in the irrelevant other worlds of sport and soap opera, of mythology and metaphysical fantasy, will find it hard to resist the encroachments of those who would manipulate and control it.” 

― Aldous Huxley, Brave New World Revisited, 1958

Red Light

 

The Color Red

The narrow wavelength band of pure spectral light at 625 to 740 nanometers, stimulating the color photoreceptors of the eye’s retina, produces the color perception of red. At  the end of the visible spectrum of light, red ranges from the brilliant yellow-tinged scarlet to the bluish-red crimson, with variations in shade from pale pink to the dark burgundy. Made from the natural clay earth pigment of ochre, a mixture of ferric oxide and varied amounts of clay and sand, red  pigment was one of the first colors used in prehistoric art. 

Red, the color of blood touched by oxygen, has been associated in history with the ideas of sacrifice, courage and danger. In modern Europe and the United States, the sight of color red is associated with the ideas of heat, passion, activity, sexuality, anger, love and joy. While in many Asian countries, the color red is symbolic of the ideas of good fortune and happiness. Red placed prominently in the ceremonies of the Mayan and ancient Egyptian cultures, and later on in the Roman processions and military victory celebrations. It served as a color to show prominence and power, decorating the gates and walls of Chinese palaces and the costumes for the Renaissance nobility and wealthy. 

After the Western Roman Empire fell in the 5th century, red was adopted as a color of majesty and authority. It became an important part of Catholic Church rituals, symbolizing the blood of Christ and its martyrs, and used as the robe color of its Cardinals. Used to draw the attention of viewers, it was often used in Renaissance painting as the color of the costume of Christ, the Virgin Mary, or a central figure of a scene. Layers of pigment mixed with a semi-transparent glaze allowed more light to pass through, creating the effect of a more brilliant color. 

The earlier red, vermilion, was made from the powder mineral cinnabar and used widely in manuscript illumination of the Middle Ages and Renaissance paintings. Early in the 1500s, a new red appeared from Mexico, made from the tiny parasitic insect, the cochineal, which was more brilliant and worked well with textiles. With the arrival of cochineal red, painters had a rich crimson color, called carmine, that was used almost exclusively by all the great painters of the 15th and 16th centuries, including Vermeer, Rembrandt, Van Dyck and Tintoretto.

With the systematic study of color theory and the study of complementary colors in the 1800s, red was used to create specific emotions in the viewers of artworks. Vincent van Gogh avidly followed these studies. In his description of “The Night Cafe” to his brother Theo in 1888, Van Gogh wrote “I sought to express the red and green the terrible human passions. . . Everywhere it is a battle and antithesis of the most different reds and greens”. The Russian symbolist painter Kuzma Petrov-Vodkin used red in his 1912 painting “Bathing of a Red Horse” to shock viewers, provoking a furious discussion among Russian art critics. Mark Rothko used red in simple block forms on large canvases. In 1962 he painted a series of large murals of the Passion of Christ whose predominant colors were dark pink and crimson, chosen to inspire human emotions. 

Seated Men

“And often he who has chosen the fate of the artist because he felt himself to be different soon realizes that he can maintain neither his art nor his difference unless he admits that he is like the others. The artist forges himself to the others, midway between the beauty he cannot do without and the community he cannot tear himself away from.”
Albert Camus

Memory

 

“You must know that there is nothing higher and stronger and more wholesome and good for life in the future than some good memory, especially a memory of childhood, of home. People talk to you a great deal about your education, but some good, sacred memory, preserved from childhood, is perhaps the best education. If a man carries many such memories with him into life, he is safe to the end of his days, and if one has only one good memory left in one’s heart, even that may sometime be the means of saving us.”
Fyodor Dostoevsky, The Brothers Karamazov 

Parva Scaena

Parva Scaena (Brief Scenes): Set Thirty One

“We live together, we act on, and react to, one another; but always and in all circumstances we are by ourselves. The martyrs go hand in hand into the arena; they are crucified alone. Embraced, the lovers desperately try to fuse their insulated ecstasies into a single self-transcendence; in vain. By its very nature every embodied spirit is doomed to suffer and enjoy in solitude. Sensations, feelings, insights, fancies—all these are private and, except through symbols and at second hand, incommunicable. We can pool information about experiences, but never the experiences themselves. From family to nation, every human group is a society of island universes.”
Aldous Huxley, The Doors of Preception

Seated Figures and Capote

“Any love is natural and beautiful that lies within a person’s nature; only hypocrites would hold a man responsible for what he loves, emotional illiterates and those of righteous envy, who, in their agitated concern, mistake so frequently the arrow pointing to heaven for the one that leads to hell.”
Truman Capote, Other Voices, Other Rooms

The Faces of Man

Faces of Man: WP Photo Set One

“A fleeting moment can become an eternity. From a past encounter everything may disappear in the dungeon of forgetfulness. A few furtive flashes or innocent twinkles can survive, though. Some immaterial details may remain marked in our memory, forever. A significant look, a salient colour or a unforeseen gesture may abide, indelibly engraved in our mind.”
Erik Pevernagie

 

The Circle

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Photographer Unknown, Title Unknown, (The Circle)

“In a swamp, as in meditation, you begin to glimpse how elusive, how inherently insubstantial, how fleeting our thoughts are, our identities. There is magic in this moist world, in how the mind lets go, slips into sleepy water, circles and nuzzles the banks of palmetto and wild iris, how it seeps across dreams, smears them into the upright world, rots the wood of treasure chests, welcomes the body home.”
Barbara Hurd, Stirring the Mud: On Swamps, Bogs, and Human Imagination

And then- the Glory. . .

One Dozen Men

“Sometimes a kind of glory lights up the mind of a man. It happens to nearly everyone. You can feel it growing or preparing like a fuse burning toward dynamite. It is a feeling in the stomach, a delight of the nerves, of the forearms. The skin tastes the air, and every deep-drawn breath is sweet. Its beginning has the pleasure of a great stretching yawn; it flashes in the brain and the whole world glows outside your eyes. A man may have lived all of his life in the gray, and the land and trees of him dark and somber. The events, even the important ones, may have trooped by faceless and pale. And then -the glory- so that a cricket song sweetens his ears, the smell of the earth rises chanting to his nose, and dappling light under a tree blesses his eyes. Then a man pours outward, a torrent of him, and yet he is not diminished. And I guess a man’s importance in the world can be measured by the quality and number of his glories. It is a lonely thing but it relates us to the world. It is the mother of all creativeness, and it sets each man separate from all other men. ”
John Steinbeck, East of Eden

“We who bore the mark…”

Twelve Men on a Saturday

“We who bore the mark might well be considered by the rest of the world as strange, even as insane and dangerous. We had awoken, or were awakening, and we were striving for an ever perfect state of wakefulness, whereas the ambition and quest for happiness of the others consisted of linking their opinions, ideals, and duties, their life and happiness, ever more closely with those of the herd. They, too, strove; they, too showed signs of strength and greatness. But as we saw it, whereas we marked men represented Nature’s determination to create something new, individual, and forward-looking, the others lived in the determination to stay the same.”

Hermann Hesse, Demian. Die Geschichte von Emil Sinclairs Jugend