The Commingling of Color

Saturated with art, the city reflects our creative subconscious. While such art may not be a product of the beholder’s hand, the art influences his hand. The beholder is, essentially, an artifact of his environment. The colorful murals, collages of stickers, busy subway advertisements, scrawled sidewalk sandwich boards, finicky fire escapes, even the heavy medal melody of construction work, infuses the beholder with a sense of self. The self is emboldened by the city, each hour growing increasingly assured. Light refracts off of the city walls, entering the beholder, who in turn emotes energy back into the atmosphere. Take a minute to stop, to observe. Watch one individual, take note if he or she profits from or contributes to the artistic atmosphere of New York.

For the last three months, I hurried up 6th street to make a sharp turn on 2nd Ave. In transit to and from work, I passed Billy the Artist’s mural adorning the concrete wall of Lionsbeerstore. Iced coffee in hand, I instinctively glanced to my right, observing daily the crisp gestural strokes of BTA’s mural. Internalizing the artist’s motto, “create your own reality,” I took a sip of coffee, opened my eyes wider and set out to draw inspiration from my colorful short-term surroundings.

On my nine minute walk to the subway, I drew energy from many natural and artistic urban attributes; yet, I found BTA’s work particularly compelling. Why? The mural distills the key elements of our humanity into a handful of colors and forms. It stares back at its beholders, challenging them to first confront and later come to terms with its colorful absurdities.

The mural quite literally represents us, humans, through a meter of geometric black-lined shapes. Emphasis is placed on two physiological elements: eyes and mouths. Humans are physical beings who are seen, but also oral products of what is said about them. Each human is a unique, colorful product of his surroundings. As seen in BTA’s mural, humans are intrinsically linked. There is no singularity in humanity. Rather, we thrive when our eyes and mouths commingle.

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Inroads of Modernization

Traversing the states, and more recently the globe, I have experienced in the past three months the urban gentrification in New York, the status quo existence in San Diego, the pastoral bliss of the Yorkshire countryside, and the global character of London’s Bloomsbury district. Deeply interested in tracing the inroads of modernization as they are evidenced in visual culture, I have become increasingly aware of the polarization of geographic stereotypes.

The environments that I have recently inhabited have few outward similarities. The countryside vocally shuns technological encroachment while New York embraces technological trends with vigor. The broad generalizations that I have just made are intended not as absolutes, but rather as an indication that individuals in a specific geographic area tend to staunchly hold the belief that their regional culture is supremely unique. Life is either better with technology or without, it is either rural or urban. This separation of culture is vocalized, but in actuality the poles or urban and rural life are linked by modernization. Ironically, in this desire to be authentic, true authenticity is lost. Therefore, I have come to the conclusion that our true origins can best be studied though observing a region’s past record of artistic creation, not its present body of work.

I escaped the modernizing trends of city life for the pastoral obscurity of Yorkshire dales before beginning my year of study at University College London. While in the dales, I took countless pictures the countryside’s present appearance to later contrast with painters previous 18th and 19th century depictions. Still picturesque, the dales, which I observed, have become tainted by products of industrialization. The inroads of modernization have influenced both their psyche and the physical appearance. Yet, glimmers of the regions pastoral pastimes can still be observed if one approaches the landscape with a visual reference of how it was once painted: pure. The grassy pastures, rambling streams, and roaming domesticated animals of the dales still represent the rural stereotype of the region, but this categorization is superficial.

Time and technology have led to cultural shifts in the countryside, which are similar to the larger more evident shifts seen in large cities such as New York and London. Thus, while present regional stereotypes are rampant, they are inherently flawed. Every region is affected to a degree by modernization; however, each region’s true past is not forgotten for it can be referenced in visual records conceived in past generations. Commonalities between the countryside and the city will become more physically apparent, linking our distinct regional cultures to an unprecedented degree. Pastoral pastimes will be preserved in works of art, but past stereotypes will slowly degrade due to the pervasive nature of world modernization.