Individual Work
Color Yourself Inspired™

In this project, the artists appropriate Benjamin Moore’s long list of paint color names, taking the language of paint out of its functional context to place it into a screen-based work of collage art. Color combinations are determined, not for their visual properties, but instead through parts of speech tagging. As if the paint names aren’t hyperbolic enough on their own, the longer you view the piece, the stranger the color names appear. I can’t help wondering: Who would want to paint a room “Snow Cone Green,” “Nacho Cheese,” “Marshmallow Bunny,” or “Mayonnaise?” Or, what were the board meetings like when someone or team brainstormed, proposed, then decided on these names? The words in the color gallery often evoke moments (“Early Sunrise”), memories (“Grandma’s Sweater”), aspirations (“Dream I Can Fly”) and moods (“Calm”); but when paired together a more dramatic scene takes place. On one interaction, I was presented with “fire and ice engagement at sea,” with a tense and worrisome musical accompaniment.

This work playfully subverts marketing text, and in doing so it draws attention to capitalist frameworks for meaning making that permeates all aspects of daily life from search engine keyboard strokes to the colors on the walls. Inspiration is clearly derived from the cut-up. William S. Burroughs attributes this technique to Brion Gysin, who used the news as a database for creating language collages. A more recent “news” piece, Kenneth Goldsmith’s Day, comes to mind. Both projects appropriate a source text, and present the data set in its totality. Unlike Burroughs and Goldsmith, this project is generative. It includes language, choice, and sound. Taken as a whole, the project investigates a particular world vision. Through a corporate, slicing and dicing of hues, tints and shades, what comes to the foreground is a collection of American values—sold as paint colors—condensed into short, sometimes disturbing, phrases.

Author statement: 
Color Yourself Inspired™ is a generative artwork that creates unpredictable poetic phrases from Benjamin Moore’s paint color database; it is an interdisciplinary exploration of sound, color and language. An online collection of over 1000 unique color names are poetically sequenced using a computer program designed by the artists based on parts of speech analysis. Every three seconds a new phrase combination is chosen and the hue, saturation, and brightness of the selected colors determines the location and size of the on-screen graphics. The words and phrases of the colors can be considered a database of Western cultural connotations for optical perception, a compendium of American values and perspectives that evoke pleasure, leisure, memory and fantasy. The musical notes map a twelve-tone chromatic scale to the hues of a 360º color wheel. The brightness of the color shifts the pitch over five octaves, while the saturation controls the duration of the note. By focusing on the language we use to describe visual sensation, Color Yourself Inspired™ (a marketing slogan from the Benjamin Moore website) explores the interplay between perception, psychology, economics, culture, corporate color names, and language by chance operation.