Sunday, July 10, 2011

Color Me Orange

“Who told you that one paints with colors? One makes use of colors, but one paints with emotions.” —Jean-Baptiste-Simeon Chardin, 18th century French painter

I grew up with a variety of colors—a pink room, a red front door, a grey carpet in the living room, a yellow kitchen, a green buffet—or so I thought. There was never any brown (“I hate brown,” said my mother.); never any blue (“Blue is so sad,” she said.); and most definitely never any orange (“I don’t like orange!”).

Yet, in addition to being a teacher, my mother was an artist. An artist who doesn’t like colors?

Dale Chihuly would disapprove. “I never met a color I didn't like,” he is quoted as saying.

I’m sure she never would have labeled herself as an “artist.” That term was reserved for the elite who made their living from their art. Yet, for as far back as I can remember, she was either sketching, painting, doing pottery, or making jewelry. After she retired, she took a silver jewelry-making class through her local community school; she audited painting classes at Hofstra; she took pottery classes in Florida. Doug and I have several of her works of art framed on the walls of our home.

But throughout it all, she continued to “hate” orange. That was all to change, thanks to her granddaughter. When Perri was small, we spent a week visiting my mother at her place in Florida. Preparing for our visit, my mother went shopping for gifts—naturally. She picked out turquoise leggings and a matching t-shirt for Perri. Alas, the outfit did not fit, so mom took us to the store to exchange it.

“You can just get a larger size or pick out anything from this display you like better,” my mom said to Perri.

Wrong words. Even then, Perri was an independent thinker, especially when it came to clothes, color, and art. She picked out bright orange leggings and a matching orange and hot pink t-shirt.

“I don’t like orange,” said my mother.

“I do, Grandma,” replied the cutest five-year-old you’ve ever seen.

Guess who won? “Orange is the happiest color.”—Frank Sinatra

That began a 12-year exchange of orange presents, which continues to this day. Orange vases, clocks, sponges, candy, rubber gloves, necklace for mom. Orange crayons, containers, sweatshirt, hangers, hat, jewelry for Perri. My mother even painted Perri a picture—of oranges! It greets us as we walk in the door each day.

“Orange is red brought nearer to humanity by yellow.”—Wassily Kandinsky

Color makes me happy. As I age, I want to remember to not only paint with the colors, but feel them—all of them, even orange.