We can't help but respond to color, we are societal conditioned to make associations to color and the color of things. White in some cultures like Africa can signal a death, while in America it can signal a wedding. Equally we appeal to certain colors because that is what our brains tell us to do; that deep red of a strawberry triggers the brain to let us know it may be a good idea to eat it.
But what happens when one's color perception is not like others? There are roughly 8-12% of the population in the United States that are Colorblind. The large majority of them being males, with only about 0.5% are females. This means there are colors that are seen by the many to mean one thing, but for these few Colorblind people, mean another. This color deficiency or blindness throws off the color spectrum that normal vision people are use to. Therefore, the colors that are interpreted through the eye are different form the colors seen, in part or in whole, by the normal vision person.
My portraits reference the Ishihara Color Circle tests that are issues to children and adults in order to discover Colorblindness. The tests are largely made up 3 different circle sizes, the sizes being exactly half the size of the larger. There are a variety of colors that relate to one another in a sense that they are trying to trick the Colorblind persons eye into not seeing an image that should easily be seen by the non-Colorblind person. This occurs because some colors are seen as others, for example to a Red-Green Colorblind person, a dark green and a brown may look identical, where the difference is easily seen by the non-Colorblind. I take the three circle sizes and create a portrait of an individual who is Colorblind, while applying the colors that they have issues seeing. Because of the values and intensities of the colors that are used, the individual along with the non-Colorblind person can see the portrait. I also reference this test because I wanted to reclaim in some part, the tests that have been associated with us and often brought up to separate us from the normal vision.
Colorblindness varies in spectrum and has many variables, and because there are different types of Colorblindness, each individual gains their own unique pallet and it is repeated each time they have another portrait done. There are tests that can determine different types of Colorblindness but most people are only given the Ishihara test whether they are Colorblind or not. The specific type and degree of Colorblindness of each individual varies. For this reason once a person has a pallet that is unique to them, it not only helps represent them in their portrait, but also aids them in being able to guarantee them seeing their portrait.
Not always a curse, some Colorblind individuals are noted as being able to see farther in low light, fog, and other situations but seem to do so because of the sacrifice of color. For example, on a foggy darker night a Colorblind individual may be able to see further or more clearly than the non-Colorblind, but has a higher chance of confusing a street lamp with a traffic light. At a distance or with blurry eyes, people start to lose this difference and are able to see shapes or groupings similarly. Based on this fact and referencing the impressionist and pointillists, the portraits from a distance can be seen more successfully than point blank range. This is evident when seeing an image that is blurred, in low light, smaller scale or at further distance.
The paintings and prints in the series vary in size of circles (while preserving the 3 sizes,) colors, legibility at various distances, and of course image. This is done to reference the Ishihara color circle tests, as each test can be more or less obvious to someone who is viewing them. The more abstract the painting is up close, the more frustrating it becomes to try and figure out what the image is that someone looking just behind you, over your shoulder or across the room, can see more easily in comparison to you. This also references how difficult it is to explain to someone how you see or perceive things while being Colorblind and having to deal with he frustrations of the visual world around you, while others see the same image but from a different perspective and it becomes more or less successful or clear.
Aaron Brown is a fellow Red-Green Colorblind artist who works as a Photographer in Illinois, USA. Facing challenges with color has not slowed him down in the least, with a successful Photography business that satisfies his customers time and time again. You can see his works at his website AaronBrownPhotos.com, and on his Facebook Page where he posts updates of works in progress and shares his photos with his followers, FB Aaron Brown Photography.
Rick Russell started painting in 2009. Prior to 2009, Rick focused his creative energy on areas where his visual disability did not play a major role such as metal sculpture and drawing. Rick has a rare form of color blindness called monochromacy, complete color blindness, in which the eye only sees colors as shades of gray. People afflicted with this genetic disorder often describe their world as being vibrant or colorful due to their ability to see contrasts of light and dark. In 2009, Rick fell in love with painting and has not looked back. Rick's paintings are full of movement and texture and offer the viewer a unique perspective into the world where color takes a back seat to form. Ricks work can be seen both on his website CBGStudios.com and on his Facebook where he posts updates of works in progress FB CBGStudios
Shan is Yellow-Blue or sometimes called Green-Blue Colorblind. Unlike the Red-Green people, Yellow-Blue Colorblind people are not Colorblind due to their recessive genes but instead a dominate one. Being a female it is also more rare as the majority of Colorblindness is displayed due to a recessive trait that is carried in the X gene which women have 2 of to correct the problem where men who only have one (XY) are stuck with being Colorblind. Women roughly make up only 0.5% of the population. Yellow-blue Colorblindness is not as common and the Colorblind may not know they are Colorblind at all due to the colors they have issues with. Shan found out she was Colorblind in college for art and it doesn’t affect her everyday life. Colors such as Orange and Pinks are the greatest issue points, which are often not seen together in everyday life as to call her Colorblindness into attention until College. Shan is currently an Artist and Graphic Designer and is working towards her Art Education Degree.
Dorothy or "Dot" was not born Colorblind. Many people think the only way someone can become Colorblind is by birth, but there are other ways people can and do become colorblind later in life; people can lose their color perception by a Stroke, Chemical Exposure, Diabetes, etc. When Dorothy was in her 80's she accidently splashed bleach in her eyes. About a year later she went in for cataracts surgery. It was not until her late 80's until it was pointed out and noticed that she had a large color pallet switch. Based on her love for books and an everyday routine, color was not as important and therefor not noticed until a social visit and realization. After a few comparing tests of different colors, it is now known that Dorothy is Colorblind and has trouble with colors ranging from pinks, reds, purples, greens, oranges and more. Her color pallet seems to be mixed up, which often happens to someone who is colorblind. Colorblindness often affects one's entire color perception/pallet. Dorothy is now 94 and is living in Texas with her family.
Rob is totally Colorblind. He currently lives in Alberta, Canada and works in a local Grocery store. He has grown up without being able to see color at all and says it was not difficult growing up where he did and often does not acknowledge his Colorblindness. He is know among his friends for being quick-witted but often tunes out color references as he almost boycotts the acknowledgement of color. Rob does not wish to make much light of his Colorblindness and doesn’t like to tell people, but rather make it obvious that people should respond a different way when describing things to him. "I'll tell them if they get mad and ask me why I keep ignoring their directions if they use color only but people should not rely only on one thing, especially if that one thing could be something that part of the population has issues with. People rely too much on something that is largely man made now. I work everyday around man made labels and apparently people think I should memorize their color, but I think the color is not natural or necessary to anyone’s wellbeing." Rob acknowledges his Colorblindness internally and said he would not try and become an electrician or something where color could be an issue or dangerous and knows his limitations and would rather do something that color isn’t going to interfere in his daily life.
When I went into college for art and found myself explaining to Professors and fellow students alike about what I see, how I see, how colorblindness works, etc. In 2011 I made my Self Portrait, as seen above, and this started my Colorblind Perceptions series, which was also part of my Senior Thesis work to complete my BFA. I am red-weak but as most Red-Green Colorblind people, my greens also seem to suffer and my color pallet is always a bit off. My work has led me to realize that I hate the question "What color is this?" and that some Colorblind people (mostly who are Red-Green Colorblind) have a stronger sensitivity to shades in our rods which can let us write and read secret messages that the normal visioned people can not normally see. I am currently working on more portraits of the Colorblind in both digital prints and paintings, but will also be expanding to light based portraits in the upcoming months. I also hope to create unique Screen-prints that reference Colorblindness.
SKALD 20122012 Gold Medal from Columbia Scholastic Press
This group show at 464 Gallery in Buffalo, NY, introduced a new portrait of Aaron Brown and also included 2 other Colorblind portraits. The show intended to bring notice to emerging artists and their works, as well as providing artwork for sale for the holidays, hence the name 464 Gallery Presents Presents.
John's first showing outside of Buffalo, from his series Colorblind Preception, was widely embraced by the people of Jamestown, NY. John will be in thier Feburary 23, 2013 show with new works, including a large wall installiation piece.
At this one night event hosted by ELAB, John gave a short artist's talk about his concept of his Colorblind Precepion series and touched on the misconceptions of being Colorblind and the struggles assiocated with being a Colorblind artist.
The first showing of Colorblind Perception opened on May 4, 2012. The Exibition contained 12 pieces which included a 80"x58" poirtrait on the wall made of hand cut circles, 6 - 30"x40" paintings, 3 - 20"x30" digital prints, and 2 small 11x14 digital prints. The show displayed portraits of three different individuals with different colorblindness as well as one self portrait of the artist.
The portraits of the individuals dipicted were made of varrying different sizes and refrenced the Ishihara color circles, which aid in determining if an individual is colorblind or not. Each portrait contained a specific color pallet unique to the person's colorblindness. Dispite the colors used in each portrait being ones that the individual has trouble/can not see, the portrait is created so that the person, as well as the general public, can see their own portrait.
Rich Kegler, P22 Type Foundry
Cori Wolff, Artistic Director at Buffalo Arts Studio | Curator at Olean Public Library Gallery