“White is boring,” he said.
The comment bounced in my head. Bounce, bounce, bounce. Bouncing like a Superball it shot into every corner of my brain and caromed against the synapses. “BORING, BORING, BORING,” the Superball screamed.
I said nothing. Art professors can be, in general, rather narrow minded and this art professor, in particular, did not seem to respond well to dissent from the unranked. I was sure that speaking would somehow awaken the Guardian of Art, the inner warrior of old art teachers, and the battle would not end until my GPA lay crushed, bleeding and almost dead at his feet.
But in my mind ….
The small, energetic sphere of heresy was a Tasmanian Devil. Spinning into the crevices of my brain. “BORING!” it shrieked again and again. But it found no agreement, no sympathy, no purchase. No niche to call home. No burrow to wallow within. It was a stranger in a hostile land. An inconceivable concept in the no man’s land of my being as alien in my brain as well … an alien.
It careened into a crannie of my cerebral cortex and was met forcefully with the preexisting belief ‘White space can be both active or passive’ which caused it to slam into another nook ‘White adds emphasis’ and another ‘White space can provide balance and harmony in a composition.’ It happened repeatedly until … The Superball slowed and became heavier … morphing into a cue ball but still just rolling around, a bit listless and slightly battered, looking for a pocket in which to nestle.
The art professor smiled and nodded the way people do when they want you to agree. I said nothing. I did not nod. He roamed away to find an argument the way he did.
While in my brain the cue ball rolled to a stop as a white hot spotlight powered on. Classical, white marble figures stepped into the light surrounding the ball. They chanted in a unified, silky smooth baritone, “White is pure. White is the non color in which all colors exist. White is reflective. White is innocence. White signifies beginnings because with white everything is possible. It is a blank canvas or a clean slate. White is itself cleanliness. White is good.”
But of course it is also so much more. There are the men in white coats who come to take us away, white T-shirts, tighty-whities, and white sand beaches. White meat. You can wave a white flag. The hero rides a white steed, and there are Nights in White Satin or white knights in shining armor and, of course, white weddings. It can symbolize nothingness, virtue, a beginning, eternity or virginity. White rabbits, white rooms, and a Whiter Shade of Pale as well as white supremacists and little white lies. White lab coats. There are a lot of shades of white. White picket fences, white washing, three different types of White Russian. We want pearly white teeth and to see the pearly white gates of St. Peter. Unicorns are white and some water fountains, restrooms and businesses used to be marked White Only. Churches are white. Crosses are white. Milk is white. It can be cold and sterile. White bridal gowns, the Yang (of Yin and Yang fame) is white, men in white hoods, white collar workers, white noise. Bed linens are white. There is as white as the driven snow, lily-white, whiter than white. People used to be free, white and 21, there is white bread, and white sales. White-out. You can be white as a sheet, have a white elephant, take a white knuckle ride. The good guys wear white hats. White on rice, white caps, the White House, don’t shoot until you see the whites of their eyes, white as a ghost, the other white meat, and the holiest of the holies in Graphic Design – white space. Our beliefs about whiteness and what white means have caused a world of hurt.
White is many things but “Boring” isn’t one of them. Art professors be damned.