Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Wednesday, Bloody Wednesday --Juliet

Maybe it's because I'm an artist, but whenever I think about blood, I think of the color red. What fascinates me is the dichotomy of the color: red is associated with life and love on the one hand, and death and injury on the other.
Indeed, in psychological experiments red is said to evoke the strongest reaction of all the colors. This is why many warning signs and cautions regarding heat and flammability are written in red. To be caught red-handed means to have the blood of murder on your hands. Red is said to incite violence and frightened thoughts.

At the same time, red is supposed to be the ideal paint color for dining rooms and restaurants, as it is said to increase the appetite. Does that mean we have a hunger for violence and frightened thoughts? (You can trust me on this one: in one of my past lives I was a professional color consultant, "Certified by the State of California.")

A red-blooded person is healthy and virile, but red-light districts are full of vice. Red roses are the symbol of true love, but red is the color associated with martyrdom. Red is lust, and violence, and sacrifice, and love, and life.

Blood (and the color red) has been used as a powerful statement in art through the ages, as in one of my favorite paintings by Caravaggio, above (c. 1599). Don't you just love the perturbed look on Judith's face as she is beheading the invader, Holofernes? She looks as though she's avoiding the blood as best she can. Wouldn't want to muss the dress.

One of Hollywood's all-time great shots is in Kubrick's The Shining: the camera shows a bank of elevators and...wait for it...the doors sliding open slowly... and something gushing from within. A deep, black-tinged crimson liquid rushes into the hallway, careens off the wall, and lifts an upholstered chair with its force. Finally, it covers the camera, leaving the screen black.Our strong reaction to blood has led to some very unfortunate uses of it in contemporary "art", in my humble opinion. For instance, British artist Marc Quinn created quite the sensation when he sculpted a self-portrait of his head out of 4.5 liters of his own frozen blood.

Recently, women's blood art (check it out, if you dare: blood art) was taken off E-Bay, as the online auction site prohibits the sale of human body parts (story at: Blood art taken off e-Bay)

I remember reading that the Aztecs marveled over the fact that women could bleed without being injured, not only monthly, but also during childbirth. It was considered sacred, as well as scary. Women bleed all the time, yet most times they don't die. Interesting.

But speaking as an artist, there are a lot of perfectly good bloody-looking pigments out there available for things like painting. In my mind, I'll continue to associate my favorite color with life, and lust, and love...and only very rarely with bloody violence.


Martha Flynn said...

that scene from The Shining is so freaky!!!! darnit Julie - how am I supposed to get to sleep now??

Juliet Blackwell said...

At least I left out the twins. 'Come play with us Danny, forever, and ever, and ever...'

Lisa Hughey said...

Personally I love the color red and I'm going with your associations :)

ps. I read a study about speed dating, turns out men were more likely to request a second date if the woman wore red....

Sophie Littlefield said...

so strange and i can't believe i didn't write about this in my own post...i am a red-hater. not all reds, but certainly primary red. I got an inkling of the fallibility of my prejudice when I heard quilter Freddie Moran say that red is - when used sparingly - a neutral. When I gave Genius Maddee free reign over my site, she wisely - brilliantly? made it red. Damn.

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