Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Well... poop.

That color theory book I was talking about? Well.

Color and Culture, but John Gauge. Published in 1999 and currently retailing at Amazon for about $40 USD. Every flippin' color theory book and article I've read, I swear, reference this book. It's like the Bible, or the Holy Grail, or, hell, I don't know, an original copy of the Icelandic Sagas. It's made to sound like THE book on color and culture. And, hello, the title, so go figure.

Turns out it's another piece of western-centric crap like every other art history book I have. Starts with the Greeks and Romans, blah blah, look how clever the post-impressionists are. Whoopee. I've heard that song before.

I'll be skimming the chapters (there's one chapter on color and concepts of Western classical magic that might be good) and will pass on anything worth mentioning. There's gotta be something interesting in there, there are 268 pages to the main text. But I fear a lot of the cool stuff I've already seen in some other art history book.

Anyone know of a book out there that's REALLY about the meanings of color in world cultures? I suspect I need to get the hell out of the art history section and go dig around the anthropology section instead.


luneray said...

You've piqued my interest too. A brief poking around the U.Washington library yielded this possibly interesting journal article (as well as lots of physics articles!):

On the Role of Culture in Color Naming: Remarks on the Articles of Paramei, Kay, Roberson, and Hardin on the Topic of Cognition, Culture, and Color Experience
Author: Kimberly Jameson
Publisher: Sage Publications
Edition/Format: Article : English
Publication: Cross-Cultural Research, 39, no. 1 (2005): 88-106

Louiz said...

Sounds interesting. Looking forward to more articles. Will check my (tiny, pathetic) library today...

Alwen said...

Not really what you're looking for, but I recently read about this experiment, where differences in how a language treats color created differences in how the brain perceives color:


Bizarrely, the verification word is "fleatint"! You'd need a dye that works on chitin . . .

Roxie said...

In college, our dance teacher brought in an Indian woman to teach some classes. To make it more authentic, the teacher bought bolts of white muslin so we could all make saris. "So beautiful, all these fresh young women in innocent white!" The Indian lady was appalled. In India, white is the color of mourning. To her, we looked like a funeral. We took our saris back to the dorms and tie-dyed them (it was 1968 after all)and she was so much happier!

Hope the book turns out to be worth the investment anyway.

Mandy said...

You're right - it probably would be something you're more likely to find in the anthropology section. That being said, I don't recall from my anthro days that there was a comprehensive book about color in various cultures (of course, I got my degree 20-some-odd years ago!). It seems to me that you might have to pick the cultures you are interested in, and find the info in books specifically about them.

Emily said...

I'm so sorry you had to spend $40 to find out you didn't like the book!

Quickly checked out Alwen's reference: wow. I know that infants learning language drop & become deaf to sounds not in the language spoken around them. Now I wonder if perhaps we become blind to certain shades in much the same way. (I'm struggling with beginning-to-paint classes & am utterly failing to identify & copy certain tints.)

Caroline said...

I think you need to write that book. :)

Virginia said...

A friend of mine turned me on to this site: http://www.colour-affects.co.uk/

It might be interesting to you, but I don't think it's exactly what you're looking for.

Amy Lane said...

Either that or the art section... Interesting idea... can't see what you get when you pursue it!

Anonymous said...

Well, color is one of my obsessions, too, and all I can say is - don't waste your money on Color: A Natural History of the Palette.

This was my Amazon review: "This is a book about writing a book about colors. The actual color information often gets lost in the oh-so-charming stories of how she researched the information. The author has a fine eye for the "telling detail." And often that's all you get - a string of telling details, without a backbone. And when she wanders off into "I like to imagine that..." I just want to throw the book across the room.
I think it's a fantastic idea for a book. And if it had more substance and less chatter, it would be a fantastic book. "