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The Dance of Color

Wassily Kandinsky, the famed painter said, “Color provokes a psychic vibration. Color hides a power still unknown but real, which acts on every part of the human body.” He said this around the turn of the 20th century before science had a chance to validate the art theorist's assertions. Today we know that people heal from wounds more quickly in rooms painted a certain color, or with a view of nature. Hospital stays are shorter, appetites higher, demeanors calmer and moods brighter when humans are in environments of a certain color. We are affected, visibly and invisibly, by the information our senses take in.

That's the challenge really. The science of sensation and perception tells us that we perceive BEFORE we know. By the time we can say, oh, what a beautiful shade of blue, our brain, gut and whole nervous system have already been affected. Artists intuitively choose certain hues and values to create a kind of symphony - a key combination that is both arousing and calming, stimulating us in new ways while also providing calming content. In this painting by Raul Dufy, a small dog that looks like a spaniel in the lower right corner is painted leaf green. We know that dogs aren't green; but he contributes in a quiet way as an extension of his owner's dress, like a shadow. He is the closest character in the foreground, and yet our attention is drawn to the lyrical array of passengers and visitors at a boarding bridge.

What colors are singing to you right now? Red can be energizing; blue is calming. Yellow stimulates the flagging energies and over-stimulates an active mind. Neutrals are popular because they are balancing in general. Colors you are drawn to tell you something about what kind of healing your body wants. You don't have to know why; you just have to allow your body to tell you what attracts you. What's more, blending and combining colors can likewise say what we need for optimal functioning, as few of us just want one color. Variations on red, yellow and blue are great choices for healthcare settings, as these primary colors stimulate and order certain cellular functions that contribute to wound healing, DNA transcription, or mood. Green is famous for being a balancing color, terrific for all except isolated and envious people.

In the Matisse cutout above, the simplicity and boldness of color makes this work a very life-giving image, especially with the upraised "arms" of this mythical plant. The primary color and handmade quality of his cutouts speaks to the innocent creative quality in all of us while giving us a nice lift of energy. When you finish reading, look around: does your environment give you the color nourishment you need?

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