Color in Art, Color in Life: Prisms, Pigments and Purpose
January 31, 2021
Color is in anything and everything; it is a visual element that creates different meanings, which is what the “Color in Art, Color in Life: Prisms, Pigments and Purpose” exhibit highlights. At the Wichita Falls Museum of Art from Oct. 24 to Jan. 30, students experienced the colors in various art pieces, viewed the different perspectives and questioned what color means to them.
“The overall theme if you will, of color is part of [the exhibit], so the artwork is gonna have a lot of color in it. We have permanent collection pieces along with commentary and contributions by outside people on that subject of color,” Danny Bills, museum curator of collections and exhibitions, said. “We have four partners: River Bend Nature Center, the Museum of North Texas History, the Kell House Museum and the Moffett Library. Those four organizations contributed education[al] material about color and then 22 MSU faculty and staff contributed writings about what color means in their areas of study or vocation.”
The exhibit was created when the museum was temporarily closed due to COVID-19. Bills said that the pandemic caused him to look at things differently and go beyond the museum walls and interact with people. One way he did this was by posting online the process of creating the exhibit. Another way was with the help of English associate professor Todd Giles, who brought together the 22 MSU faculty and staff.
“A long time advocate for the museum is Dr. Todd Giles, [who] took on the role of faculty liaison…. His role to help us out is to be that interface with the faculty, ask them to put out that request, talk to them about it and also look at what they are contributing. Todd Giles is what brought [this collaboration] about,” Bills said.
The collaboration spread throughout the university by bringing together all the different fields of study.
“What’s so interesting about the WFMA’s exhibit is how expansive a role ‘color’ plays in our lives and how elemental ‘color’ is to the human experience. Considering that ‘color’ can describe a whole range of things (it is not just limited to language of pigments, paints, inks and crayons – we also use color to describe personalities, histories, races, genders, identities, flags, political leanings, debt, profit, health, etc.), I can’t imagine a single field on campus that can’t say something interesting about color,” Tyler M. Williams, English and humanities assistant professor, said.
Williams said it was difficult to find a single focus within humanities as it is an expansive field. In his contribution, he briefly touched on the different areas within humanities. Other collaborators, such as history assistant professor Tiffany Ziegler, had the same difficulty in finding one focus. Ziegler could have written about Vikings or royalty but decided to go for a different approach and write about medieval health care.
“After agreeing to be part of the project I spent some time in contemplation. The first color that came to mind was black, as we often associate the Middle Ages with a ‘dark’ period and hospitals in the pre-modern period with death. The more I considered the topic the more I had to check my own biases. The medieval world was colorful and vibrant. It was bright, especially in a religious setting where images (icons, mosaics, paintings, illuminated manuscripts, etc.) and the ‘colors’ of the liturgy played a role,” Ziegler said.
For other collaborators, it was easier to connect color such as Sally Story, theatre assistant professor, who focused her contribution on the collaborative art form that is theatre. Margaret Brown Marsden, dean of the college of science and mathematics and biology associate professor, focused on the color blue within biology. There were also other contributors that easily connected color to their fields that are not normally associated with art.
“Geology and color are very closely linked…. For example, rocks and minerals, when cut very thin and polished, show many beautiful colors under the microscope. We can study the Earth from space by studying wavelengths of light (or color) that human eyes can’t see, which correspond to different types of plants or plankton. A friend of mine studies well-preserved fossils of feathers to figure out what color dinosaurs might have been. So color is a huge part of my field,” Anna Weiss, geosciences assistant professor, said.
Bills referred to the exhibit as well-received as it brought in groups of students from different majors, from English to nursing.
“[The exhibit is] a nice way to appreciate all the majors and how they can all be connected by something as simple as color,” Brittaney Rivera-Orsini, radiology sophomore, said.