2021 Winner: For Each Name, A Color; For Each Color, A Name

Project Information
For Each Name, A Color; For Each Color, A Name
Independent Study
“For Each Name, A Color; For Each Color, A Name”
Fall 2020
Artists Book made of Paper, Found Photography, and Watercolor Drawings, 8.5”x11”

For Each Name, A Color; For Each Color, A Name is a 60-page artists book that explores colors and names, and their connections to one’s subjectivity. I began with an interest in how colors are named and this interest broadened to colors and names as separate, but connected temporal entities. I realized that asking about the connections between the two is subjective and heavily dependent on one’s lived experience and reality. Names are not fixed to a person, and shift with intention and in reaction to place, time, and purpose. Similarly, colors change in relation to their environment.

This project began with interviewing people of various backgrounds in order to learn about their individual experiences with colors and names, and using their lenses to inform my own. The people I talked to included a physics professor, a firefighter, and a creative writing mentor. Originally, I wanted these interviews to culminate into a visual project. However, in order to process the connections I was discovering, my research took a turn as I began to write about my own name.

Writing about both my American and Chinese names quickly became an exploration into the ways my personal experiences of names and colors affect my understanding of culture, family, and being Chinese-American. Investigating my identity through the lens of the fleeting, abstract concepts of colors and names allowed me to reach beyond the identity of what I am perceived as, while also circling towards a self I do know.

In writing about colors and names, I also explored the limits of language. How do we rely (or not) on language to name colors and people when both are constantly shifting and slipping?

Throughout interviewing and writing, I grounded my research practice in making inks using natural materials such as redwood cones, walnut hulls, and dried amaranth. This accompanying process allowed me to interact with color in a very material way. The long process of boiling down natural materials became an exercise in engaging with the temporality of color-making that does not participate in the human need to constantly determine. I had little control over how the natural inks would turn out. I could only facilitate the process of experimentation which led to pleasantly surprising results.

Eventually, I used these natural inks to create watercolor images to accompany my writing. In addition to these images, I incorporated other found materials such as Chinese-English dictionaries, archival family photos, and other ephemera.
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  • Klytie Xu (Porter)