“Color is consciousness itself, color is feeling”William H. Gass, in On Being Blue
I came across two articles recently, one about colours of the autumnal landscape, the other about the current palette fads in interior design. Both articles reference the Covid-19 quarantine centrally as drivers of our gravitation towards earthy shades, water shades, calming shades. We’re all living in this viral dream at the same time, looking at our walls as they start to close in on us and wondering what we can do to salvage the situation.
Katy Kelleher in the Paris Review writes lyrically about “Russet, the Color of Peasants, Fox Fur, and Penance” (20 Oct. 2020), invoking the eternal and the beautiful in the midst of her current sense of foreboding:
“I’ve been thinking on russet lately, this color of oak and Rembrandt and austerity. Its terra-cotta earthiness fits my mood. I’m hunkering down for winter, making paprika-spiked stews and big pots of beans with bacon, always dutifully freezing a portion for later. I’ve been readying myself not for hibernation, but for months of social isolation. According to both the Farmer’s Almanac and common sense, it’s going to be a hard winter for North America. As though inspired by the celebrity fat bears of Katmai, I’ve noticed myself bundling up, bulking up, and reaching for thick, warm clothes in rusty earth tones. My mother always favored a restrained palette; she recently gave me a big bag of sweaters she no longer wants, and three of them are russet. One, a cable-knit wool turtleneck, is from the nineties, but it could be from the seventies. It could be from Autumn/Winter 2020. …
“I walk around outside with my head tilted up, to better see the leaves and the blue sky behind. For now, I notice the shades of brown that have been there long before us and will be there still.”
“The Surprising Power of Color to Ease Quarantine Anxiety,” by Kyle Chayka in ArtNews (22 Oct. 2020) looks at “quarantine chic,” color therapy, and the light neutrals and outdoorsy shades many people want these days:
“Rather than urban excitement, the selection conjures an outdoor adventure, or perhaps the waiting room of a well-appointed doctor’s office. We want to be reassured, not overstimulated, by our wall colors. … ‘Everyone is a bit upset; they want things clean.'”
Out of favour are depressing dark shades; vivid colours — except for “a handful of bold pinks, yellows, and purples that [could be classified] as ‘escapism’ and some stick-on art wallpaper with “aggressive patterns”; the greys of the twenty-teens; and browns (even russet, one assumes) and reds. What’s desired now are blues — silky, warm, rich — as well as celadon (a pale blue green), creams and organic neutrals, quiet greys, subtle pinks. Essentially, the hues of lichens. “One family opted for a “light greenish-blue, organic but not obtrusive, adapted to the longue durée of the pandemic.”
About the urge for blue walls, William Gass (cited above) wrote that blue is “the color of interior life” and Kyle Chayka reminds us that Carl Jung called blue “the color of water” which could represent the unconscious, and suggests that
“[b]eyond evoking the missing outside world, maybe the quarantine palette is an attempt to adapt to our newfound mode of introversion and accept that we’re living within our own heads for the time being.”
Living within our own heads — sounds dreamy! Or nightmarish. But either way, let the walls vibrate trustworthiness, harmony, and calm; let the oaks loose their ordinary elegant brown-purple beauty down on us all; and may we continue to explore our many landscapes — heart & soul, consciousness & unconsciousness, the world of our own homes and the unbounded world outside.
Featured image: Marconi Beach, Wellfleet, Cape Cod, MA, May 2019 (slightly manipulated in Picasa)