There is a psychology to color. Some will elevate our mood, and others will cast a somber shadow. Often, color underscores our memories and emotions, either intentionally or instinctually as when we react to a sunset, or to sunflowers along the side of the road, or to a sky so blue it makes the eye ache from the beauty of it.
Beginning on Monday (July 16) you'll have the chance to immerse yourself in a world abundantly cast in color when Annell Livingston and W.L. Estes premier their first show together titled "Color + Color = Color" in the Encore Gallery at the Taos Community Auditorium, 145 Paseo del Pueblo Norte.
After living and working together for more than two decades, Livingston and Estes are excited about celebrating their first partnered show, of which they have spoken and for which they have planned over several years.
Taos Center for the Arts Executive Director Deborah McLean said, "We, too, are in celebration and honored to share with our community the creative talents of two accomplished artists." The Center manages the gallery and auditorium, which is owned by the town of Taos.
At first glance, the styles of the artists may appear disparate, but Livingston and Estes beg to differ. "We are both colorists and hard line painters," Livingston said, "and though our styles aren't painterly, we're both influenced by what is organic."
Estes agreed. "We have more in common than not, from the way we approach color to our use of shapes."
They both seem more eager to highlight their partner's work than their own. "Notice the playfulness in Ward's paintings as if they are asking the viewer to enjoy the color," Livingston said. Across a bold diagonal of two saturated, matte acrylic blocks, Estes chooses to scatter his interpretation of the Zen symbol, "enso."
Enso is a brushstroke that embodies the Zen philosophy of mindfulness while at the same time not allowing the mind to control the movement of the brush. Typically done in one continuous stroke, it is a powerful mark of universal and powerful enlightenment, of intuitive creativity.
Estes' symbols are hard-lined onto the canvas, and dance across it in hues he has custom blended. "Each piece in my series is a unit of composition and color," he said, noting that the broad expanse of their studio windows affords him the landscape and the light as inspiration.
"But, Annell is the real colorist here," he said, emphasizing over her smiling objections. "Some of her works in this series have over 165 different gradations and shades."
The viewer should initially view one of Livingston's canvasses from a distance. They are linear and geometric, painstakingly drawn with a straight edge and then painted by free hand with amazing accuracy. ("Sometimes 19,000 painted lines," Estes interjected.) What one notices is the movement from top to bottom, and across the diagonal, where colors blur and shift as your eyes travel the piece.
Then, get up close and look again. There's the same movement but on a much more elemental level, much like the behavior of fractals in the physical world. "I'm not trying to show what something looks like. Instead, I'm trying to share how I feel, (using) color as a form of nonverbal communication," Livingston said.
"When I create a painting I am not trying to tell the viewer what he should think or what he is seeing. Rather, I am creating a place for the viewer to have his own experience, to see and to think his own thoughts."
And it works: in the premise of abstract expressionism one is encouraged to draw one's own interpretation, and personal associations with color render the universality of her works.
Livingston is widely acknowledged for her mastery of the technique, which to her is a personal journey. "For me, nothing is ever experienced or remembered as a whole, but instead in fragments. Through the use of geometry I break the picture plane into many small pieces, which is a metaphor for my life experience, thought and memory," likening her works to quilts of intimate intricacy.
They were both eager to share how they manage to peacefully share a studio. "We work quietly and respectfully," Livingston said.
"Until 3 in the afternoon when we hold our own salon and critique each other's day's work," added Estes, both noting the value of that time at the end of their work day.
"We work for hours nose-to-nose with a canvas, and it's necessary to take a step back and consider what's working and what isn't," Livingston added.
Livingston recently published a book, titled "The Color Book: Poems and Paintings," a personal acknowledgment of her belief in both the power of color and of words. Sections are dedicated to red, blue, yellow, green and black, and note the characters attributed to each.
About her poetry, she said, "I fell in love with words and make writing a part of my studio practice. It is always the idea behind the work that determines what the work will be."
And, she noted, "Color is implied in poetry." In this book, her ancillary exploration of color, Livingston's words touch profoundly upon being inspired "by the joy of being, by memory and loss, life and death."
Both Livingston and Estes see their relationship with color as a lifetime study, and continue to explore its impact upon themselves and their audience. "This is my vocation, to keep the creative spirit alive," Estes said, while Livingston remarked that she wants to remain authentic. "I've been painting for decades, and I put my signature on each piece, so what I create has to stay emotionally real."
"Color + Color = Color" will be on view through Aug. 19. Mark your calendars for the opening reception planned Thursday (July 19), from 4-6 p.m., which, as always at the gallery, is a free event.
For more information, call (575) 758-2052 or visit tcataos.org. For more information about the works of Annell Livingston, visit annelllivingston.com.