31 August 2022

What Can Color Mean?


Color chips of green and yellow at Coloring STL.

What happens when you examine the world through the lens of color instead of form? Is there cultural meaning that adheres to specific colors? Do colors transcend place and time? When you look for yellow, just yellow, and you cast aside what neighborhood you're in, does that change your understanding of the place? Can we go on a treasure hunt for particular colors in our city and appreciate them for their own sake? How do colors change our understanding of architecture and the city?

The diversity of places and structures referenced in the color chips in the Coloring STL exhibition raises questions of this sort for those with a keen sense of aesthetic perception. Colors indeed elicit emotions in us, just as smells do. Can we learn new things about the city by viewing it strictly through the lens of color? The series of grids with color swatches named for specific locales suggests a cross-pollination between our cultural associations with a place that color our understanding.

Photograph of a 2015 bus tour of university students visiting Lewis Place (© copyright 2015 Andrew Raimist).

Some visitors may not be familiar with Lewis Place, but the yellow hue embedded in the triumphal arch marking it contains is striking. You will always realize you're approaching a passing by this monumental feature in the urban landscape, and it becomes a spatial landmark. How many people know the story of the battle over land ownership in Lewis Place and its importance in St. Louis history?

You can get a sense of the story of Lewis Place by reading the article "Opening the Gates: Segregation, Desegregation, and The Story of Lewis Place" by Elizabeth A. Pickard, published in Gateway Magazine, Fall 2005, Vol. 26, No. 2 (© copyright 2005 Missouri Historical Society).

The opening pages of the article on Lewis Place suggest its importance in St. Louis history.

Once we comprehend the significance of the word "color" concerning Lewis Place, can we appreciate the beauty of its yellow separate from the people and the history it embodies?

Note: I will be presenting a concise, entertaining slide talk on Thursday, September 1, 2022 as part of "Mid-Century Mania" festivities including music, art, food, drink, and hands-on experiences. The event takes place from 5:30 to 8 pm.

"Mid-Century Mania."

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