This is a post I wrote for my art class’s blog last year.
I was having trouble brainstorming for a “light and color” project when, coincidentally, I turned on the TV and found that the movie The Golden Compass was playing, and the current scene was showing a person with what looks like rainbow light flowing into him from a pool in the sky. One of the main characters explains that this is not light; it’s actually “dust particles” from a parallel universe, which invisibly drive events in the world where the story takes place. This seemed to me like a reference to photons, or possibly string theory.
Ideas about the constancy and transcendence of the speed of light flashing in my head, I looked for a book in my room on astronomy. Noticing the other books on my shelf, I found it curious how many titles reference light and color. The Sun Also Rises. Bright Lights, Big City. Born on a Blue Day. Night. The Scarlet Letter. Twilight (don’t make fun). Aside from titles, tons of famous literary references occured to me. For example:
“ The light which puts out our eyes is darkness to us. Only that day dawns to which we are awake. There is more day to dawn. The sun is but a morning star.” – Henry David Thoreau, Walden
“Gatsby believed in the green light, the orgastic future that year by year recedes before us.” – F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby
“Then Tea Cake came prancing around her where she was and the song of the sigh flew out of the window and lit in the top of the pine trees. Tea Cake, with the sun for a shawl. Of course he wasn’t dead. He could never be dead until she herself had finished feeling and thinking. The kiss of his memory made pictures of love and light against the wall. Here was peace.” -Zora Neale Hurston, Their Eyes Were Watching God
“Let me show in a figure how far our nature is enlightened or unenlightened:–Behold! human beings living in an underground den, which has a mouth open towards the light and reaching all along the den; here they have been from their childhood, and have their legs and necks chained so that they cannot move, and can only see before them, being prevented by the chains from turning round their heads. Above and behind them a fire is blazing at a distance, and between the fire and the prisoners there is a raised way; and you will see, if you look, a low wall built along the way, like the screen which marionette players have in front of them, over which they show the puppets.” – Plato, The Republic
“The beauty of the colours in the dream was only a repetition of something seem in my memory.” -Freud,The Interpretation of Dreams
“The light which I see is not located, but yet is more brilliant than the sun, nor can I examine its height, length or breadth, and I name it ‘the cloud of the living light.’ And as sun, moon, and stars are reflected in water, so the writings, sayings, virtues and works of men shine in it before me.” -vision of 12th century nun and mystic Hildegard of Bingen, whom neurologist Oliver Sacks identifies in The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat as someone who experienced migrainous manifestations because of the inclusion of “a shower of phosphenes in transit across the visual field, their passage being succeeded by a negative scotoma” in all her visions.
I noticed that some of the colors and light that these quotes illustrate (no pun intended) reflect individual characters’ associations, which is leading me toward the concept of how our memories of certain objects and situations “color” our future experiences of them. I am also interested in depicting the symbolic role of color and light in metaphysical practices, like aura reading, chakra clearing, and visions like Hildegard’s.