by Laura Viada
I have been fascinated by color since I first saw Impressionist and Pointillist paintings at Houston’s Museum of Fine Arts on a high school field trip. The way the paintings looked so different up close and from a distance – how a field of small brush strokes or dots of different colors could transform themselves into recognizable forms and landscapes at a distance.
It was another 20 years before I began my own artistic exploration of color. When I first began weaving, over 25 years ago, I experienced a lot of frustration over the fact that the colors I chose, when woven together, didn’t look as I expected them to. During that time, I happened to go to the MFAH again and encountered those same paintings. It was a “lightbulb moment” – I saw that the interaction of separate warp and weft colors in a weaving is the same basic thing as the cluster of dots and brush strokes in the paintings. My eyes are mixing the separate thread colors the same way they mix the dots and brush strokes in the paintings.
Thus, began what has become a decades-long exploration involving the interaction of color and the way our eyes blend small areas of different color through a phenomenon known as “optical mixing.” I realized early on that I would have to go the root physical principles of how we see color to understand optical mixing and get the results I wanted in my work. When our eyes do the blending of two or more separate colors, the result is often quite different from the result obtained by mixing the same colors in paint. This is because the cones in our eyes employ a different set of “primary” colors from that used in pigment mixing. Optical blends in fiber also add a considerable richness and depth to a finished weaving.
Throughout my creative journey, I have been inspired by the work of Josef and Anni Albers, leading Bauhaus figures and, later, teachers and artists in the United States. Josef Albers’s monumental text, The Interaction of Color, and his color studies using the simple square have provided a wealth of inspiration over the years. And, of course, the legendary weaver and artist, Anni Albers pioneered the concept of the woven textile as art, in its own right, independent of function.
In 2011, I had the enormously inspirational pleasure of viewing the Carlos Cruz-Diez retrospective exhibition at MFAH. Cruz-Diez had an interesting method of exploring color that involved breaking a color plane and creating what he called “chromatic events” in areas where two or more broken planes come together. He often employed three-dimensional elements, light, and motion to create additional color and shape shifting effects. This was another “lightbulb moment” – I could use the concept of “chromatic events” to create depth and complexity in weaving. This set me on a whole new journey of exploration in the world of color and fiber.
What I’ve discovered over two decades of this exploration is that the possibilities are limitless. There’s always a new discovery to make, a new effect to be achieved. This journey will never be finished. I’m fairly good now at being able to plan and execute the color effects I want, but color has a magical quality at its core and a there’s a surprise waiting for me in each piece. That’s the great fun of it!!