Shell to Skin: the Materiality of Color & How to Harvest it

Writing, Graphics, Catalogue

“Shell to Skin” explores some of the most bizarre pigments–Mummy brown, Indian Yellow, Cochineal, and Tyrian–of the Forbes Pigment Library on the 5th floor of HAM. The following cards, modeled after a paint chip fan deck, explore four rare and highly material colors each with their own distinct geographic location, labor practice, methodology, application, and influence on modern day understanding and perception of color. There is no one specific way to read or use this archive, rather its intention is to inspire a more thoughtful and critical lens through which to view color and its multiplicity of applications and biases. Each card is arranged with material at the top, which represents the color’s original location to immaterial at the bottom, or its Western application. Here, ”master” paintings are presented as evidence that this color was extracted, accumulated, and disseminated for European use. The actions and bodies implicated in this process beg the question: How is it that so often we forget the labor and people behind the very materials that shape the human world?

The Idea of Enviroment, Radical Archive. Harvard Graduate School of Design.