"It was color as such, naked color, unabashedly itself, and assertively dominant."
—Elizabeth Frank, Esteban Vicente
So-called "naked colors" expose a stark naturalness that many viewers would consider titillating or indiscreet. Naked colors invite the viewer to peek into an intimate range of wavelengths that yield a profoundly sensual impression and uncover a hidden truth. Naked colors embody what the French phenomenological philosopher Maurice Merleau-Ponty calls "interpenetration," wherein the fine line between a public arena and a private one starts "gaping open" (qtd. in Henry James and the Philosophical Novel, by Merle A. Williams, 1993). In other words, Merleau-Ponty is suggesting that a naked color on a visible surface can serve to lead the imagination toward something typically not visible.
Naked colors appear in the art world and the natural world. The red and gold Santa Rita mountains and the violet Catalina mountains of Arizona display a "wild bright beauty" of "naked color" (Glenn Hughes, Broken Lights: A Book of Verse, 1920). In the springtime in London's city parks, flower bulbs "break against the renewing grass in naked colour" (David Piper, The Companion Guide to London, 1983). In the Dutch painter Pieter Mondrian's later work, he focused his attention to "'naked' colour dynamics: patches of pure red, yellow and blue held in place by a grid of black lines (Jon Thompson, How to Read a Modern Painting, 2006). In the world of fashion, "naked color turns into decorationism" (Marc Chagall, Marc Chagall on Art and Culture, 2003). However, quantum physicists tell us that "naked colour is never to be seen" in quarks (Nigel Calder, Magic Universe: The Oxford Guide to Modern Science, 2003).
The COLOURlovers library is full of naked color inspiration. (Viewer discretion advised.)
Cover by auntie.
About the Guest Author, Craig Conley
Craig is an independent scholar and author of dozens of strange and unusual books, including a unicorn field guide and a dictionary of magic words. He also loves color: Prof. Oddfellow