By Ida Victoria Gustavson
On my first visit to Los Cabos what struck me most was the color. Coming from New York City in the winter, I was overwhelmed by the colors of this area; it was everywhere and it was vibrant. The sky was a beautiful cerulean blue, the water of the Sea of Cortez was an incredible wash of phalo blue and viridian green; the desert and granite mountains were a rich mix of alizarin crimson, burnt umber, and yellow ochre. The color I saw all around me was right off of my watercolor palette left back in my studio apartment, I could squeeze the colors of Los Cabos right out of the tube, they are so pure. The color around me that first week was inspiring and continues to inspire me and it is so interesting now after 4 years of living here that every artist on vacation that comes into the gallery mentions to me their new found love of color and inspiration.
To me Mexico is color and there is nowhere in the world that I have been where color is so ingrained in the psyche of the culture. The colors range from natural earth tones to fuchsia and electric blue. There are no rules to the colors in this country and I love that. When people compliment me on the color I chose to paint the outside of my gallery, I joke that only in Mexico could I have a giant purple building with mustard yellow trim and it look classy. I know I couldn’t get away with that in New York City! Everything in this country, the food, folk art, textiles, buildings, and costume is an explosion of the rainbow. Even the sunsets do not stick to the customary red, orange, and yellow palette.
I remember on a trip to Oaxaca and its markets thinking to myself how much Henri Matisse, the leader of the artistic movement the Fauves, would have absolutely freaked over and loved this country. Fauves means wild beasts, and this was the name given to a group of avant-garde artists that showed their work in the 1905 Salon d’Automne in Paris. For the first time color was not used as part of the representational visual description of an object, instead color became the real subject of the painting. Skies and oceans no longer had to be blue, trees were never again to be green and fishing boats and homes could be pink and purple. The public when first seeing these works were almost offended calling the body of work an “orgy of pure colors” (and this wasn’t meant to be a compliment.) What is interesting is that after this show and the short-lived Fauve movement, color no longer had to be restrained to describing an object; instead color could describe emotion and this in turn impacted modern art forever. This is why walking the streets of Oaxaca and seeing a purple truck loaded with colorful household items from brooms to buckets in every color imaginable, parked in front of a lime green building with cherry red trim and hot pink bougainvillea growing up the wall gave me the feeling that I had walked into a Fauve painting and it was a beautiful thing.
In my foundation year at Parsons School of Design we were not allowed to use color for the first six months. A lot of students were extremely frustrated by this, but I know now the reason why. They were teaching us the importance and theories of color from the basic level; and that is value. How were we expected to understand and use color properly if we could not first describe the color of something in black and white? I was reminded of this when a woman came into the gallery in a rush to purchase specific painting. She said that her husband, who is completely colorblind and has little interest in art was blown away by the painting because he could feel the colors even though he couldn’t see them because the values were done properly. She was so excited that he was struck by the work she bought it for him without a second thought. After she left, I had to see this for myself. I brought the image of the painting I had into Photoshop and clicked “desaturate”(remove the color, for a black and white image) and it was right on! I too could feel the color in black and white. Color in our lives is so important, even if one is not conscience of it. It affects our emotions, appetite and wellbeing and is an absolute powerful form of communication. To be able live in a country that is so daringly colorful as Mexico, literally and figuratively is an absolute joy.
You can find Ida at the Ida Victoria Gallery in San José del Cabo.