Last year I travelled with my father to Inner Mongolia. In case you don’t know, Inner Mongolia (内蒙古, Nèi Měnggǔ or in Mongolian, Öbür mongɣul) is a Mongol Autonomous Region in northern China, whereas Outer Mongolia is a separate country to the north of China.
Off the beaten path visiting some interesting rural areas, we stumbled upon a farm house. There were cows, horses and sheep wandering freely, quietly grazing on vibrant green grass, lazily sun bathing to fill their time.
Immediately I was drawn to the black markings on the cows’ white fur. I started thinking about the combination of black and white that’s found frequently on fabrics since this classic color grouping is eternally popular. Is there anyone who doesn’t own at least one black and white outfit or accessory?
When I researched the meaning of the color black, I discovered it’s associated with power, elegance, formality, prestige and mystery. It can have negative connotations (blacklist, black humor) or be associated with fear of the unknown (black holes).
White, on the other hand, is associated with light, goodness, innocence, purity, successful beginnings, faith and virginity. It is considered to be the color of perfection. As opposed to black, white usually has a positive connotation.
Perhaps the combination of the two helps us feel balanced, negative and positive, or reflects our desire for both?
As I stood entranced cow watching, each possessing completely unique patterns of abstract art on fur, I thought about color combinations in general.
There are no singular colors that exist in nature. Leaves are not just green. Sun is not just yellow. Water is not just blue. When examined closely, there are subtle shades that make up the color label we attach to things. If you’ve ever tried to paint something and make it look realistic, it’s the various shades that keep it from looking flat.
Nature not only provides colors in every shade of the rainbow, she knows exactly what works together. Wise Mother Nature wouldn’t dare pair colors that clash, or select hues that are difficult on our eyes. Is it wisdom or do we think certain colors are perfect soul mates after they get imprinted on our consciousness from what we witness in nature?
I’m not sure which came first, but I do know one thing: The impact those cows made on my art was lasting. When I got back to California, I immediately had to add black and white designs to my hand dyed silk clothing and scarves. I knew I could never compete with the resplendence of what nature provides, but I think my beautiful creations came a close second.