"Orange is like a man convinced of his own powers," wrote the Russian painter Vasily Kandinsky...one of the many illuminating quotes in the book "The Anthropology of Turquoise; Meditations on Landscape, Art and Spirit," by Ellen Meloy (Random House, 2002). I'm loving this book, even though, or perhaps because, Meloy's personal geography is so very different than mine. She lives, hikes, paints and meditates on color in the desert and hills of Southern Utah, where the colors of sky, stone and life are blue, terra-cotta, and green. With a predominance of terra-cotta.
All gardeners deal with color; we struggle with it, celebrate it, work with harmonies, contrasts, light and shadow. How can you garden and not be obsessed with color? Somedays it seems like that's all I think about, and am comforted to know that master colorist Picasso studied color his whole long life and considered it to be the greatest mystery.
I never like books that explain color in terms of rods and cones, or instructive ones that suggest planting purple and chartreuse together, or not mixing yellow and white variegation. Who makes such rules, or thinks so narrowly? Color is one big, glorious experiment..for Meloy it's both study and observation, as well as learning from those who have meditated upon color before her.
Here are a few of the quotes I've written in my journal as I read...and I'm only halfway through the book! "The Anthropology of Turquoise" is a book to savor, to read slowly...
- The complex human eye harvests light
-Yes, you can feel colors - the sense of sight likely evolved from the sense of touch.
-"The power of profound meaning is blue....blue is concentric motion." Kandinsky
-"Colors are the deeds and suffering of light" Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
- "Red rings inwardly with a determined intensity. It glows in itself, maturely and does not distribute its vigor aimlessly." Kandsinsky again
And this is my favorite bit so far, filled with knowledge and imagery to ponder:
-Colors don't reside in things; they are the intimate revelations of an energy field. They are light waves with mathematically precise lengths, and they are deep, resonant mysteries with boundless subjectivity.
This embothrium blossom, just opening this morning on Queen Anne hill, is pure color energy in all its "resonant mysteries".
If you look for "The Anthropology of Turquoise", the newer, paperback edition has a different subtitle, "Reflections on Desert, Sea, Stone and Sky," and a new cover. I like the new cover better, and prefer the old subtitle, but either way, it's the same thoughtful, inspiring book.