The Privilege of Color

I fell in love with color at an early age. By the time I reached grade school I coveted it, in fact. That was when I discovered that crayons didn’t just come in boxes of 24. Looking around a room filled with wooden desks and unknown faces, I saw that a privileged few owned the rights to a full range of 64 prismatic shades. Hues with exotic names like Thistle and Orchid belonged to an upper echelon, a cliquish group of Jills and Janes with sassy blonde curls and even sassier attitudes.

It wasn’t until junior high, when I graduated past the limitations of crayons, markers and chalk all the way to paint, that my passion for color met its equal in my desire to become an artist.

The days were never long enough for me back then, as I filled every free moment with painting and poetry. The creative world became my cocoon. During my turbulent teens I subconsciously transformed my bedroom into a womblike retreat, painting everything—floor, ceiling, walls and furniture—with vibrant, glossy red paint. My older sister thought that I should have included an accent color somewhere, a white table or a bedspread, but I vehemently disagreed.

Red was the color I wanted, the color I needed, the color that brought energy and healing and inspiration to my soul. It was water in my adolescent desert.

Throughout the Mid-Western twilight—that season of darkness that descends every October and oppresses all the way through April—I lived in the center of a flower that never dies. I woke up to walls that glowed like the inside of a hearth. I read e.e. cummings, Ray Bradbury and J.R.R. Tolkien while nestled in an enclosure as cozy as any owned by the myriad Jills and Janes who lived up the hill in brick houses; they came home every night to dinner on the table, a matched set of parents and who knows how many cars in the attached garage. I came home to a room the color of love, and it held me sheltered in its tight-knuckled fist; fiery brush strokes on a plaster canvas that somehow helped me ride out the explosive tidal wave known as the ’60s. During that murky and moonless horizon of pubescence, I woke up to the embers of a luminous red sunrise. The sun never set, the fire never went out in my sacred sanctuary.

For me, color will always be a thin veneer that foreshadows the world of the spirit, a supernatural essence that stirs the world of emotion. I have loved color from a very early age—its awesome power and its creative possibility. But I think most of all, I have loved the very privilege of having it in my life.

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