Art Works Blog

Did you know...? Red, White, And Blue Editon

Tomorrow is Independence Day and chances are you will be seeing red...and white and blue. But what do you really know about our patriotic color palette? Before you light your sparklers and flare up the grill, test your arts-based chromatographic know-how with this special red, white and blue edition of Did You Know..!

Did you know there is more than one kind of 'blues' music? Actually, there are several. The main variations of blues music includes Chicago Blues, Delta Blues, Texas Blues, and Blues Rock. Musically speaking, 'blue' is a popular term. There is the 'blue note' which is sung or played slightly lower than a song's major scale to lend an expressive, melancholy feel. Blue notes are often used in blues and jazz music. However, more than one genre of music has corned the market on blue. There is bluegrass music for example, a breakaway genre of American country music that has its roots in the Appalachian mountains as much as in the bogs of Scotland, the lowlands of Ireland, and the cliffs of Wales. The instruments which mark the bluegrass sound consist mostly of acoustic stringed instruments and separates bluegrass from mainstream country tunes. This includes the mandolin, string bass, fiddle, banjo, guitar, and the dobro---all instruments that are quite familiar among recent NEA National Heritage Fellows Sheila Kay Adams, Séamus Connolly, Mike Auldridge, and Andy Statman.

Did you know the color red has a varied symbolic literary past? American author Stephen Crane's The Red Badge of Courage takes place during the Civil War and follows a young Union deserter who flees battle. Ridden with guilt, the private thirsts for a visible wound, or a 'red badge of courage,' to rectify his past cowardly ways. For Crane, red signified courage. However for Nathanial Hawthorne, red symbolized carnal sin. Based in puritanical New England, The Scarlet Letter tells the story of a woman is punished for her alleged adultery and forced to wear a scarlet 'A' on her body to illustrate her sins. Red wounds on a man for courage and red letters on a woman for immorality---rather antithetical symbolic meanings, indeed.

Did you know multiple visual art moments from across the globe are blue-inspired? French painter Henri Matisse famously noted, "a certain blue enters your soul...a certain red has an effect on your blood-pressure." With the start of the 20th century, many visual artists reacted to the emotional and responsive power of the color blue. Several famous artists chose to highlight blue as a central component of their works while others organized artistic movements with blue as a thematic title or prompt. Pablo Picasso's Blue Period, from 1901 to 1904, limited his color palette to mostly blues and greens and eliminated warm tones in an attempt to create a somber mood. Russian symbolist painter Pavel Kuznetsov lead the Blue Rose group  from 1906 to 1908 and used blue as a 'tonal medium' to explore mystic environments. Meanwhile, Wassily Kandinsky and other Russian artists in Germany formed Der Blaue Reiter (translated to The Blue Rider). This group of artists were interested in using blue (but also other colors in general) as a symbol for spirituality and a rejection of materialism.

Did you the Beatle's The White Album isn't really the album's name? Ok, ok. We understand, this is America's birthday but the Beatle invasion is still a part of the United State's musical history. While commonly known as The White Album, the ninth official album of the Beatles is actually self-titled. The design of the album sleeve most likely had something to do with this musical mix-up. The double-album sleeve is stark white except for the band's names in a subtle, embossed lettering. Alas, the official name of The White Album is actually The Beatles. And while self-titling a late-blooming album would often suggest unity, the Beatles actually recorded The Beatles in a time of great turmoil. Ringo Starr left the band briefly during its production and Yoko Ono made her first studio appearance. But the listening audience wouldn't have guessed it. After the album's release in 1968, The Beatles climbed the charts in both America and the U.K., reaching the coveted number one spot and has been certified platinum 19 times.

Did you know blue jeans were not always a fashion staple? When Levi Strauss, a German immigrant, brought his denim, indigo-blue dyed pants to America in the 1870s, they primarily functioned as factory employees' working clothes. It wasn't until a specific women's line of Levi jeans were created in 1934 that the iconic item of clothing was raised to high fashion standards. The following year, Vogue featured blue jeans in an article about an up-and-coming trend in popular American tourist destinations---dude ranches. Overnight blue jeans became trendy. James Dean and Rebel Without a Cause furthered the blue jean craze in the 1950s and the pants became a emblem of youthful revolt. Youngsters in jeans, as a result, were often banned from public spaces. However by the 1960s blue jeaned-boys and girls were the norm and within the next decade, Levi's blues were the fabric of American casual wear.

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