Gee’s Bend quilts

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While thinking about Kim Eichler-Messmer’s color wheel quilt currently on display in the Dramatic Chromatic, I figured to look at some other quilts out there. I’ve heard of Gee’s Bend quilts before but I really had no idea just how amazing these things are.

Rita Mae Pettway "Housetop"-twelve-block ""Half-log Cabin" variation, Circa 1975.
NANCY PETTWAY, BRICKLAYER VARIATION, 2003, quilted fabric, 71 x 71 inches
STELLA MAE PETTWAY, HOUSETOP VARIATION CENTER MEDALLION, 2002, quilted fabric, 88.5 x 75.5 inches
Mary Lee Bendolph's "Work-Clothes Quilt", 2002. 97 x 88 inches

Black, golden, ashen, blue. Color in poetry, continued.

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Death Fugue by Paul Celan
translated by Jerome Rothenberg

Black milk of morning we drink you at dusktime
we drink you at noontime and dawntime we drink you at night
we drink and drink
we scoop out a grave in the sky where it’s roomy to lie
There’s a man in this house who cultivates snakes and who writes
who writes when it’s nightfall nach Deutschland your golden hair Margareta
he writes it and walks from the house and the stars all start flashing he whistles his
dogs to draw near
whistles his Jews to appear starts us scooping a grave out of sand
he commands us to play for the dance

Black milk of morning we drink you at night
we drink you at dawntime and noontime we drink you at dusktime
we drink and drink
There’s a man in this house who cultivates snakes and who writes
who writes when it’s nightfall nach Deutschland your golden hair Margareta
your ashen hair Shulamite we scoop out a grave in the sky where it’s roomy to lie
He calls jab it deep in the soil you lot there you other men sing and play
he tugs at the sword in his belt he swings it his eyes are blue
jab your spades deeper you men you other men you others play up again for the dance

Black milk of morning we drink you at night
we drink you at noontime and dawntime we drink you at dusktime
we drink and drink
there’s a man in this house your golden hair Margareta
your ashen hair Shulamite he cultivates snakes

He calls play that death thing more sweetly Death is a gang-boss aus Deutschland
he calls scrape that fiddle more darkly then hover like smoke in the air
then scoop out a grave in the clouds where it’s roomy to lie

Black milk of morning we drink you at night
we drink you at noontime Death is a gang-boss aus Deutschland
we drink you at dusktime and dawntime we drink and drink
Death is a gang-boss aus Deutschland his eye is blue
he shoots you with leaden bullets his aim is true
there’s a man in this house your golden hair Margareta
he sets his dogs on our trail he gives us a grave in the sky
he cultivates snakes and he dreams Death is a gang-boss aus Deutschland

your golden hair Margareta
your ashen hair Shulamite

Sylvia Plath, Poppies In July.

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Little poppies, little hell flames,
Do you do no harm?
You flicker. I cannot touch you.
I put my hands among the flames. Nothing burns
And it exhausts me to watch you
Flickering like that, wrinkly and clear red, like the skin of a mouth.
A mouth just bloodied.
Little bloody skirts!
There are fumes I cannot touch.
Where are your opiates, your nauseous capsules?
If I could bleed, or sleep!
If my mouth could marry a hurt like that!
Or your liquors seep to me, in this glass capsule,
Dulling and stilling.
But colorless. Colorless.

The Color of Pomegranets

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“From the colors and aromas of this world, My childhood made a poet’s lyre and offered it to me.”

Sergei Paradjanov’s highly symbolic film The Color of Pomegranets (1968) is a visual journey of the life of an Armenian poet Sayat-Nova. The movie was inspired by Armenian illuminated manuscripts and is presented in the form of a tableau . You can watch the entire movie here on youtube:

Chroma Crush: Anne Truitt

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Anne Truitt's 35th Street studio, Washington, DC 2004.

Anne Truitt has always stood out in my mind as having a command over peculiar color. Truitt’s totemic wood sculptures hover on their bases and emit color from the inside out. This is achieved through a laborious process of mixing pigments, application, sanding down, and applying layer after layer in this manner. Pigment settles deeply into the very fiber and grain of the wood. At a certain point the “woodness” falls away and strangely, color takes on an agency of its own, supported by the structure itself. Truitt’s instinct for color and form has led her to attribute certain references to nature, geographic place, time of day, as well as the corresponding qualities of light in titles such as, A Wall for Apricots, Autumn Dryad, and Valley Forge.

Anne Truitt in her Twining Court studio, Washington, DC, 1963.

Anne Truitt began exhibiting her geometric minimalist abstractions in 1961. And in 2009 I visited The Hirshhorn Museum’s exhibition,  “Anne Truitt: Perception and Reflection”  curated by Kristen Hileman. Although the installation and display strategies of the work were problematic and detract from the sculptures, it was a very complete introduction to Truitt’s oevure. The sculptures have a presence that came as a surprise and felt uncanny due to their body-like scale.

The Hirshhorn Museum presents the first major exhibition of Anne Truitt's work since 1974. "Anne Truitt: Perception and Reflection" is a survey of two- and three-dimensional works made during her 50-year career. Please include a copyright credit line with any photograph of Truitt work: Artwork © Estate of Anne Truitt.

Writing in April, 1965, Truitt stated: “What is important to me in not geometrical shape per se, or color per se, but to make a relationship between shape and color which feels to me like my experience. To make what feels to me like reality.” (Private papers.) –Anne

In Anne Truitt, Working, a film by Jem Cohen, Truitt points to a “sickish color” and talks about layering that one under another in order for it to “zoom into being, in order to lift up ten feet into the air.”  (fast forward to 2:14). Cohen sums up Truitt’s endeavors in color as one that is “scientific search and in ways a spiritual search” in an attempt to “set color free in three dimensions.”

Yaddo 2003.


Radiolab podcast on COLOR

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Just last week Radiolab released a show all about


Image courtesy of

The show focuses on the science behind color, why and how we see the colors that we do. One of my favorite parts of the podcast was the music tracks they gathered from musicians based on color.  Give it a listen!

Rippin’ the Rainbow a New One

Reggie Watts – Rainbow Connection

Barbara Benary – Over the Rainbow

Lonesome Organist – Green Onions

NYMPH – Brown Rice

Yellow Ostrich – Sound and VIsion

Raya Brass Band – Paint it Black

Erik Friedlander – Blue in Green

The Perfect Yellow

Nico Muhly – Big Yellow Taxi

Terry Dame & Electric Junkyard Gamelan – Paint it Black

Marcy Playground – Whiter Shade of Pale

The Heap – Mellow Yellow

Shearwater – Black is the Colour

Why Isn’t the Sky Blue?

Thao Nguyen – Blue

Snowblink – Blue Moon

Dan Deacon – Colours

Busman’s Holiday (with Erin Tobey) – Mr. Blue

Soltero – Green River

Radiolab is a show about curiosity. Where sound illuminates ideas, and the boundaries blur between science, philosophy, and human experience.  Radiolab is supported, in part, by the National Science Foundation and the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, enhancing public understanding of science and technology in the modern world. More information about Sloan at

William Eggleston and The Rise of Color Photography by Bryan Hiotttt.

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Bryan Hiott discusses the work of William Eggleston (widely considered to be the father of the contemporary snapshot aesthetic a la Juergen Teller and Wolfgang Tillmans). You can download it as a pdf from Hyperion – an online publication devoted to philosophy and art:

“There is a quality to Eggleston’s images that leaves one with the notion of a story unfolding beyond the edges of the print, that one image is not isolated, but part of a stream. Color functions in Eggleston’s work on a broad sensory level, engaging the viewer in a way that black and white could not. His images evoke the feeling of heat under a glaring summer sun, the taste of highway diner food, the sound of blues music, the aroma of wisteria, and the pungent smell of earth after rain.”

Dramatic Chromatic: Claire Ashley, Color&Color, Kim Eichler-Messmer, Jessica Labatte and Joe Bussell

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Click here to download a pdf document of the press-release.

Dramatic Chromatic is the fifth exhibition at Plug Projects, that brings together undeniably color-centric work of five artists. A wide range of materials and approaches are employed: photography, fibers, painting, sculpture and print media, that together contribute to a demanding and vivid visual experience. Over the span of history we observe color hierarchies falling in and out of vogue both in art and culture as theories of its origins and mechanics evolve. The twentieth century developments in the scientific understanding of the color phenomena allowed artists to focus on its material qualities and roles in image structure, emotional and psychological responses, and design. Further, the acknowledged connection between art and consumer culture generated a shift toward an artificial, saturated palette that has been influential on much of contemporary art. The artists in Dramatic Chromatic have found fresh ways to employ color both intuitively and strategically; resulting in physical, yet culturally framed phenomena that is still rich in possibilities for conveying meaning and creating a deeply satisfying visual experience.

About the artists

Claire Ashley works with color on the surfaces of inflatable sculptures. The inflatables take on the basic form and shape of bags, rectangles or unfolding squares that are presented in interior and exterior spaces. When encountering Ashley’s work, her saccharine palette on these soft shapes creates a satisfying tension between its artificiality and natural contours. The scale of her forms comments on the body’s relationship to architecture and imply a performative element as they breath, adjust, and settle. Societal forces might cram color into the form of easy commodities and collectables, but Ashley’s work pushes against this. Claire Ashley is from Edinburgh, Scotland and has lived and worked in Chicago for almost twenty years. She received a Bachelor of Fine Arts from Gray’s School of Art, Aberdeen, Scotland in 1993, and a Masters of Fine Arts in 1995, from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Her work has been shown in the U.S. and Scotland at venues including the MCA-Chicago, The Hyde Park Art Center, Devening Projects, the House of an Art Lover-Glasgow, and the Highland Institute for Contemporary Art in Inverness. She currently teaches at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in the Department of Contemporary Practices and Department of Painting and Drawing.

Color&Color is a color-centric artist publication that is co-curated and co-edited by Amanda Curreri and Erik Scollon. Color&Color began in 2009, and has produced four issues in both digital and physical formats and is guided by the duality of two thematic colors per issue. This publication intends to be “a mobile venue” which grants viewers “access to new spatial-temporal configurations for the work.” Each issue invites artists to produce new works that address color themes revolving around clever
curatorial frameworks. For the fourth issue C&C will feature Elijah Burgher’s desire-based drawings, address the condition of colorblindness, and examine the “Swedish Red & Green Manifesto that mixes the red of socialism and anarchy with the green of environmentalism.” Plug is thrilled to be debuting their newest issue, C&C#3: Red&Green.

For this exhibition, Kim Eichler-Messmer is debuting an Octodecagon color wheel quilt. Measuring eighty inches in diameter and comprised of 144 hand-dyed cotton sections created from the combination of only six dyes, this piece pushes the boundaries and expectations of the quilt genre. Presenting a systematic understanding of color theory, this work pays homage to its creation and Eichler-Messmer’s masterful understanding of all the variables in the dying process. It builds parallels between the emotional resonance of the color spectrum and the comforting function of this object. Kim received her BFA in Studio Arts from Iowa State University and her MFA from University of Kansas in 2007. She was a resident at Arrowmont Center for Arts and Crafts and has exhibited her work in numerous venues including the John Michael Kohler Arts Center, Columbus Art Museum, and Wonderfair in Lawrence, Kansas. Currently, she serves as assistant professor in the Fibers department at the Kansas City Art Institute.

Jessica Labatte invokes the viewers’ capacity for color by staging playful images that invert our sense of space. She uses a large format camera to capture collaged constructions that manipulate our perceptions and present a sense of mystery through abstract shapes and surface planes. Her formal compositions embody a saturated, material quality that reference trompe l’oiel still-lives and expands the relationship between the viewer and picture plane. These works ask us to reconcile the digital tendencies of photography and realize the potential that is still accessible in the medium’s tradition. Jessica Labatte received her MFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in 2009. Recently, she has been featured in exhibitions that include Jessica Labatte, Golden Gallery (NY), 12×12: Jessica Labatte, Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago and Always the Young Strangers, Higher Pictures (NY). In the coming year, she will present a solo exhibition at the Chicago Cultural Center.

Joe Bussell preserves the remnants of the painting process by fashioning castoff hunks of hardened acrylic pigments into playful sculptures that echo the structures in his paintings. Sharing structural similarities with biological forms, the two-dimensional works present abstract, lyrical shapes that float in the white space of the paper, creating delicate and seemingly effortless moments of material beauty. The compositions are conceived with a thorough understanding of spatial and color relationships that rely on his intuition and emotional senses. Bussell received his BFA from University of Kansas in 1979, and completed MFAs in Ceramics and Painting from Washington University in 1994. His work is collected nationally and has been featured in numerous exhibitions at venues including the Nerman Museum of Contemporary Art, Galleria Monty e Company in Rome, Kansas City Artists Coalition and the Marji Gallery in Santa Fe. He was the juror’s pick in the publication New American Paintings and received first place at the KCAC River Market Regional Exhibition in 2010 . He currently resides and maintains an active studio practice in Kansas CIty, Kansas.