We were always intoxicated with color, with words that speak of color, and with
the sun that makes colors live
– French painter André Derain (1880-1954)
know if you’re being courageous or just idiotic,” a friend who tends to
irascibility commented. “Israel is being lambasted all over the place for
everything it does, the boycott campaign is widening, anti-Semitism is spreading
like a mad weed – and did you hear about the ‘Kill a Jew’ page on Facebook?
“These are black times for the country, and you’re writing an opinion column
on... color? Where’s your social conscience?” She shook her head
“Did you notice,” I interrupted this heated flow as calmly as I
could, “that you used the word ‘black’ to express your feelings? Next thing,
you’ll be telling me my behavior is making you see red.”
“OK, OK, I get
the point,” she snapped. “We use colors to help convey how we feel. So?
you say that’s going to drag people’s attention away from what’s really
important?” “To find that out,” I retorted in my turn, “you’ll have to
I WASN’T displeased with this little altercation because it
allowed me to point out that color – to start with the metaphorical –
than belong on the opinion (and other) pages of a newspaper; it plays an
essential role there. And as for diverting readers’ attention from the
important” issues, it actually enables them to reengage with those
problems, revived and refreshed.
Imagine if every article and column in a
newspaper dealt with the Arab-Israel conflict.
How long would it take for
the average reader, well-intentioned as he or she may be, to get worn
lay the paper wearily aside? Shades of opinion on a topic don’t give
break they need. It is a paper’s varied offerings on trends and fashions
social philosophy – everything, in fact, but those “really important”
that provide a much-needed contrast to the sober stuff while affording
It’s called “color.”
speaking, is the byproduct of the spectrum of light – as it is reflected
absorbed – received by the human eye and processed by the human brain.
can’t be a much better way to bridge the abstract and concrete aspects
than to quote another friend who worked for many years as an instructor
“People don’t realize how important color is in terms of fitting
into society,” she told me over a cup of coffee. “Our everyday speech
more references to color than we are aware of.
“So congenitally blind
children are taught the meaning and associative value of color – for
‘grass is green’ and ‘the sky is blue’ – even though they cannot see
colors. It enables them to communicate like everybody else.”
home to me how casually we accept the extraordinary gift of sight and
attendant ability to revel in color – though neurologist and author
turned the whole idea on its head in “The Case of the Colorblind
of the true accounts in his absorbing An
Anthropologist from Mars
I’s whole life and accomplished career had been built around the use of
his paintings – until in midlife, as a result of brain damage, he
became colorblind. Gradually he turned into a “night person,” adapted to
his world in shades of gray.
He then found he could see in a new way.
Textures stood out, he could read license plates from blocks away, and
enjoyed the richness of this new world.
The end of his story is the most
intriguing – and counterintuitive: Three years after his injury, it was
suggested that Mr. I might be able to have his color vision restored; he
declined. His new world, he said, was too varied and interesting to give
COLOR can reveal more about people than they know, my
blind-instructor friend said, recalling an incident dating back to when
a teenager in New York.
“It was in 1967, during the Six Day War, and I
was collecting donations for the United Jewish Appeal. We lived in a
building with 24 apartments on each floor, and I rang the bell of a
my floor whom I’d never met.
“A black man opened the door and received my
request graciously. While I waited for his donation, I looked into his
room and noted that he had a black wall, a white sofa, and a blackand-
“Then his girlfriend, or wife, appeared – and I saw
that they were an interracial couple!” I’VE long been enchanted and
touched by beautiful colors, which affect me in a tangible way, almost
music and poetry.
Something as ordinary as a freebie clock I picked up
from the Bank of Jerusalem now occupies pride of place by my sitting
because of the Perspex sheeting that surrounds its face: It’s a deep
turquoise-green that looks just amazing with the light behind it.
no need to point out the rapt attention the fashion industry pays to
the huge profits it rakes in from highlighting different ones every
sending women in a flurry to the shops to buy the new must-have
But I would appreciate the answer to a question that’s been
puzzling me for years: Why is one of my favorite clothing colors gray –
color, let’s face it, of dust and dirt? THERE’S a profession that
up with the colors that most flatter their skin tones, and its
what can sound like extravagant claims – for example, that a sales
swapped his standard white business shirts for off-white ones which
his natural coloring secured the promotion that had eluded him when he
pale and washed-out.
These color consultants used to categorize people as
being “spring,” “summer,” “autumn” or “winter,” and color-advised them
accordingly; now they lean toward designations such as “cool” and
I’ve been evaluated as “warm” and counseled to choose clothes in
rich, warm colors – i.e., those with a yellow undertone, such as rust
and teal –
and I agree that they do make me look far better than “cool” colors like
turquoise and white.
One thing I like about the system is that it
stresses that anyone can wear any color – provided they choose the shade
right for them.
‘THE need for color gets stronger as the years go on,”
Ramat Aviv artist Sylvia Yaron told Gloria Deutsch in a November 2008
and it’s a pity many older women don’t appear to share that need,
themselves to clothes in “safe” blacks, browns and indeterminate sludgy
“There was a time,” I wrote back in September 2008, “when
rigid social structures decreed that matrons must wear frilly caps and
bombazine... Today, every color of the rainbow is there for women of any
enjoy; for men, too.”
Wake up, ladies: Color calls.
In a recent
Channel 8 documentary about children’s view of the world, one little
surmised that “heaven is full of color.” That may well be, and it’s nice
But we do know that down here on earth, color is everywhere.
And it’s up to us to enjoy it to the full.