Color me surprised

“Boston Massacre” by Larry Rivers, 1970 (Photo from

The Boston Massacre was many things: violent, extreme, inciting, maybe even a little blown out of proportion. What doesn’t come to mind when thinking about the Boston Massacre – or really any massacre, for that matter – is the word colorful. When a whole lot of death is involved, color isn’t people’s first concern.  And the hues that do come to mind are not too cheerful: a lovely snow white tinged with blood red and mud brown.

When I turned the corner of the Harn – the museum I interned at last year – for the first time in months, I was sucked in by the bold screenprints splashed across the wall under the words “Boston Massacre.” There were greens and pinks and blues, all neon everything. Color layered on color topped with guns. Every figure, with sketch marks left for all to see, was proudly equipped with a weapon. Some leisurely held their firearms to the side, some led the way with their bayonets in the air, and others left me staring straight down the barrel.

It was a jarring juxtaposition – the cheery colors and the cold cruelty of the soldiers. The technique screamed Warhol, and I was taken aback that I had never seen the pieces before, fairly certain I had, at one point or another, gotten my hands on most things the man had made in his lifetime.

Turns out that the artist responsible was Larry Rivers. Somehow, combing galleries and museums and the dark recesses of the Internet for contemporary art had never led me in his direction. Still, it only took glancing at his work and the year to realize he’d been quite the inspiration to my beloved Warhol, which a little research confirmed.

Rivers was a mid-20th century painter stuck somewhere between abstract expressionism and the beginnings of pop. His pieces throw together the historic and the modern. The last Civil War veteran is captured in bold, abstracted planes of color. Men in old-fashioned Dutch attire are juxtaposed with a Dutch Masters cigar box. In much of his work, the colors are far more muted than in his Boston Massacre series. But somehow, Rivers knew. For the Boston Massacre, the bold colors make sense.

“Boston Massacre” by Larry Rivers, 1970 (Photo from:

The bright backgrounds contrast with simple drawings of men and guns to demonstrate the intensity of the event. Most of the men are featureless, mere shapes with splotches of color and a few lines to indicate their form. They’re not important. What’s relevant is the graphic result of the arguably minimal event. These five dead men made a huge impact, and by surrounding them with neon colors, Rivers shows the bold effects they had on the formation of America, despite their anonymity.

It’s times like this that keep me hooked on museums. On a random Wednesday, I wandered into a place I thought I knew every inch of and left madly in love. There’s nothing quite like it, I thought, scribbling “Larry Rivers” on my palm with the guestbook pen. I then promptly shoved my hand deep into my blazer as I walked out into the bipolar Florida air, the reminder of a new collection of works to explore pulsing in my pocket.

Finding love at the bottom of a soup can

My place has always been with words. I’m a talker, have been since I said, “Dada,” to my father as he walked into our house after a long day at work. He was, as is convention, quite excited, though after a couple of decades of listening to me chatter, I wonder if he wishes I would have put it off just a bit longer. Eventually, I learned to channel that constant dialogue into writing and the occasional side job in retail.

But as much as I live through language, what I live for is design. I fell in love with art when I first saw Andy Warhol’s bold soup can at the age of 11. I copied it every way I could: watercolors, screen prints, even a valiantly attempted but questionably executed tissue-paper collage. Quickly, I learned the hard lesson that just because you really want to be good at something doesn’t mean it’s meant to be.

Instead, I resigned myself to picking up a minor in art history, roaming around my university’s fine arts complex, pretending I belong and seeking out beautiful design wherever I can. My social media feeds are full of artists I love and fabulous typography and ingenious packaging. I take pictures of clever signs and have spent many an afternoon losing track of time in a gallery.

With this blog, I intend to share a little bit of my aesthetic. I’d like to think after a year spent interning at the local art museum, the Samuel P. Harn Museum of Art, I’ve developed a pretty decent eye for things worth seeing. I’ll gush when I discover an artist I don’t know how I’ve lived without. I’ll discuss new innovations I’m still in awe of – probably from, to be honest, my go-to design/ technology/ everything cool guru. When I’m lucky enough to end up reporting on something artsy – like last week, when I had the pleasure of hanging out with the staff of Gallery Protocol, a little operation with a lot of gumption – we’ll talk about that, too.

I definitely can’t draw, but I like to think that through journalism, I found my way of being an artist. I tend to shy away from writing about art because the only time I seem to be at a loss for words is when it comes to something I love. However, it’s about time I forced myself into verbalizing the things that make my imagination whir, so I’m stepping into the blogging wilderness, hoping I don’t get distracted by something pretty on the way.