jpeg A Rainbow Squared
rainbow grid study 3, animated gif

A modular art practice. A developing divination system. An experiment in making.

Pieces emerge week by week by year,
with 49 combinations of backgrounds and foregrounds
determined by a 7x7 rainbow grid:

| red | orange | yellow | green | blue | purple | black & white |

x

| red | orange | yellow | green | blue | purple | black & white |

Year 4

In progress

Producing art as a working mother comes down to having a formula, a plan. This structure forces me to make time to make. It eliminates the guesswork so I can swing into action at a moment’s notice. A project that might take years of experimentation and research can eek out bit by bit.

By design and by necessity, one constraint is that I use only my phone as the means to capture and edit and the images. I also post my progress (mostly) weekly on Instagram. Follow me on @arainbowsquared to watch it emerge.

Year 3

Themed Animation

1. Red Red. Getting started. The first push of the wheel, the first stirring of the seed, the first spurt of blood. It may be simple but it’s never easy. Don’t you dare call it basic. A cycle renews. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ Blood. Survival. Life.

2. Red Orange. Pushing through to the next step. Fundamental creative spark. Your body forging itself through time and space, growing human forms. The first harmonious progression as red moves to orange, though one that might require a lot of energy. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ Blood & Fire. Survival & Creativity. Life & Gratitude.⠀⠀⠀

3. Red Yellow. This first dance with power is exertion of autonomy, is hard work, is even a struggle to survive. Say yes to the challenge, to overcoming and becoming. Power is a blessing and a curse, both its lack and abundance. Don’t take too much and please don’t give it all away. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ Blood & Sun. Survival & Power. Life & Yes.⠀⠀⠀⠀

4. Red Green. In order to love, first to relate, and in order to relate, first to differentiate. You are birthed and thus separate, able to regard the other in wonder. Your blood flows through veins like so many branches, a family tree ultimately connecting all things. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ Blood & Leaves. Survival & Love. Life & Family.

5. Red Blue. After being born, the acoustic umbilical cord allows connection to bridge bodies and space. Crying out to be heard and then being listened to builds the fundamental trust that ultimately allows you to communicate. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ Blood & Sky. Survival & Expression. Life & Communication.

6. Red Purple. You came knowing, acting by instinct, indistinct from your surroundings. Now you need tricks to bring you back to that oneness, back to that wholeness, back to everything. Good thing you’ve known how to get there all along. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ Blood & Sky. Survival & Intuition. Life & Mindfulness.

7. Red Black White. The first visible colors, a first cycle complete. Mastering the fundamentals, in body and spirit. The whole shining circuit integrated and illuminated: bottom to top, taint to crown. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ Blood & Light. Survival & Transcendence. Life & Interconnectedness.

8. Orange Red. Boom! Get the blood boiling. Feel it in your loins—you are ready to make. In every sense of the word. Celebrate the start of a new cycle, your ability to create, that you are here. Shehechiyanu. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ Fire & Blood. Creativity & Survival. Gratitude & Life.

9. Orange Orange. Creation, destruction, transformation. Orange is an orange is itself. It is pleasure, abundant and compelling. It is lust and lust for life. It is hunger, the satiated and the perpetual. Industry, the fruitful and the excessive. Work, the fulfilling and the consuming. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ Fire. Creativity. Gratitude.

10. Orange Yellow. Thank you, yes, I’ll take some more. I’ll make some more. I will keep showing up and doing the work. I will bite off more than I can chew and then chew it. And I will blaze. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ Fire & Sun. Creativity & Power. Gratitude & Yes.

11. Orange Green. Creating from the heart. Love is fuel for the hearth: stoke the flames with abandon. Building relationships and building a life is an art, is art. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ Fire & Leaves. Creativity & Love. Gratitude & Family.

12. Orange Blue. Sharing, spreading, soaking. Driving, distributing, disseminating. The impulse to expand beyond the self through ideas and inventions. Opposite, elemental forces that are either life-sustaining or life-extinguishing, and always compelling. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ Fire & Water. Creativity & Expression. Gratitude & Communication.

13. Orange Purple. With your intention, create what you know needs to exist: that which emerges in moments and that which takes many cycles to unfurl. Be it sacred, strange, or both, follow the forces that compel you. Breathe, give thanks, and burn. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ Fire & Sky. Creativity & Intuition. Gratitude & Mindfulness.

14. Orange Black White. A light passes from wick to wick, from hearth to hearth, from pyre to pyre, covering the earth. The collective creative force of humanity is at once awesome and devastating. Harnessing it responsibly is not something you can achieve on your own. There’s a proverb: “you do not have to complete the work of perfecting the world, but neither are you free to desist from it.” Just make sure you bring others along with you. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ Fire & Light. Creativity & Transcendence. Gratitude & Interconnectedness. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀

15. Yellow Red. Bodily autonomy. Bodily autonomy. Bodily autonomy. The basis of personal power is freedom to choose what happens to and inside your own body. That power is sacred: honor it by defending it for the collective. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ Sun & Blood. Power & Survival. Yes & Life.

16. Yellow Orange. “What is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?” Use your power to create the world you want to live in. Fly as close to the sun as you please: humility and bravery are not mutually exclusive. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ Sun & Fire. Power & Creativity. Yes & Gratitude.

17. Yellow Yellow. The power of yes, YOUR yes. If you’re misaligned, the anxiety is a pit in your stomach. When you’re aligned, the clarity is a bell ringing at a perfect pitch, all green lights (no, not yellow), all open doors. Go there. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ Sun. Power. Yes.

18. Yellow Green. Photosynthesis: all those panels tilted toward the sun collecting energy, fueling roots, fueling forests, fueling lungs. Like trees we too can plug in and nurture ourselves, nurture the collective. Ground that power with love. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ Sun & Leaves. Power & Love. Yes & Family.

19. Yellow Blue. Like water, you can communicate with flow or force. Know when to be patient and when to let it out. The power of truth: honesty and vulnerability. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ Sun & Water. Power & Expression. Yes & Communication.

20. Yellow Purple. Control your mind. Control your circumstance. The power of being where are meant to be: here, now, present. Sky. Power & Intuition. Yes & Mindfulness.

21. Yellow Black White. Energy can neither be created nor destroyed, but it can change form. Embrace ambiguity, embrace transformation. The power of the collective, the power of spirit. The power of possibility. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ Sun & Light. Power & Transcendence. Yes & Interconnectedness.

22. Green Red. Otherness is not a threat. Your fate is wrapped up in mine. Our bloodlines branch back to the same source, all part of the human family tree. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ Leaves & Blood. Love & Survival. Family & Life.

23. Green Orange. The bush was not consumed, the leaves left intact despite the flames. Creating from the heart may not make you invincible but it will give you stamina. It will give you the time and dedication necessary to create what you were meant to create, despite and in collaboration with the world burning around you. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ Leaves & Fire. Love & Creativity. Family & Gratitude.

24. Green Yellow. Love itself is power. Expansive, ecstatic, ferocious. Boundless. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ Align your heart and your gut: breathe into your belly filling up your chest, empty your belly out through your chest. Feel your capacity for tenderness and appreciation grow. Leaves & Sun. Love & Power. Family & Yes.

25. Green Green. The fantasy of a plant-matter takeover, that leaves and vines would crawl creep cover everything and somehow reset the results of human productivity. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ Like the surface of the planet, your heart can fill to the point of bursting and yet contain all of it: the sorrow at the state of things, the joy in beingness. Leaves. Love. Family.

26. Green Blue. Love is a language, universal and infinitely individual. Exchanging love is creating a shared language, and it isn’t always automatic or easy. In all relationships, communicate as honestly as your heart can muster. Especially with yourself. Leaves & Water. Love & Expression. Family & Communication.

27. Green Purple. You are connected with everyone and everything around you. This isn’t always pleasant, but don’t shy away: go there, be there, feel what it is there and then know what is there. Act accordingly. Leaves & Sky. Love & Intuition. Family & Mindfulness.

28. Green Black White. Body meets mind in the heart. Integrate yourself and then you are ready to disintegrate, merging with the love and light all around you. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ Leaves & Light. Love & Transcendence. Family & Interconnectedness.

35. Blue Black White. Imagine the soundtrack of all the earth’s noises playing at once. The dissonance and harmonies, the music. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ Water & Light. Expression & Transcendence. Communication & Interconnectedness.

42. Purple Black White. Cultivate peace. As within, so without. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ Sky & Light. Intuition & Transcendence. Mindfulness & Interconnectedness.


Like the visible spectrum, there are as many ways as you can dream up to do Rainbow Squared. For this year, I stuck with animation and used multiple mediums to create images, rotating by background color. The strategy for each band of color stems from its meaning:

Red: the basic fundamentals of life: crayons, markers, labels.
Orange: fire and creation: burning construction paper.
Yellow: painting my pregnant belly, solar plexus and the seat of power and choice.
Green: photographing flowers and leaves, sometimes arranging, sometimes documenting.
Blue: ink dropped into water, disseminating.
Purple: the collective mental stew of the internet: Google Image Search curated, sorted, and strung together.
Black White: the rainbow made solid, future trash arranged in one giant pile and stop-motioned.

Year 2

Future Trash Animations

Orange Black White. doll shoes: found in the trunk of the car two days ago, total mystery juicer and bowl: plastic implements at the guest house we’re at this weekend

Yellow Red. wax and plastic: babybel cheese, eaten today paper: file folder that hosts a #pussygrabsback stencil

Yellow Orange. necklace: found in a box while spring-cleaning this weekend along with every other necklace I own. They were gone for two years. napkin: I’m learning that yellow does not photograph very vibrantly on an iPhone

Yellow Yellow. Plastic Cap: the screw-top lid for one of those awful/amazing pureed food pouches for kids that are so useful in a pinch and so much instant trash. This one even had chia seeds! Flowers: nasturtiums, some of the only blooms in our garden. I put a lot of thought into this: flowers aren’t #futuretrash! They turn into soil! But only if they are left to go back into the earth or composted. Or in this case, eaten after the shoot. Shirt: Justin’s had it for years, wore it to our Rehearsal Dinner. Even though it’s a solid color the linen weave creates a moiré effect when the photos get turned into video, as has been happening with a lot of these images. I can’t stop it so I’m deciding I’m okay with it.

Yellow Green. Hard Drive: up and died a few laptops ago. Got it replaced and asked to keep it. No idea anymore what’s on it, but it feels like power. The Yellow Books from Our Bookshelves (many have yellow spines, not as many yellow covers): Book 1: The I Ching or Book of Changes, Wilhelm/Baynes, Forward by C.G. Jung (Justin’s, this book also feels like power, and complicated) Book 2: Grapefruit by Yoko Ono, Forward by John Lennon (a delight) Book 3: Hebrew translation of One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish by דוקטור סוס Book 4: The Poky Little Puppy, a Little Golden Book by Janette Sebring Lowrey and Gustafson Tenggren (found in a free book bin, I watched a video version of this same art lightly animated as a child) Book 5: Wired:A Romance by Gary Wolf (Justin’s) Book 6: Lucky Wander Boy by D. B. Weiss (Justin’s, seems to be a video game novel) Book 7: Poetry Magazine, November 2017 (my grandfather has sent me every copy of this monthly magazine for at least ten years. Haven’t saved them all, but a lot). Book 8: Mindful Birthing by Nancy Bardacke, CNM (incidentally my number one recommended book/class for preparing for childbirth) Book 9: Urns, Dice, and Polyominoes: Topics in the Theory of Groups, Residues, Primes, & Probability by George Barr McCutcheon (Justin’s, this seems like a gem)

Yellow Blue. Bin: taken this week from the basement of my office building. “ORIGAMI PAPER” is written on the front in permanent marker. Balls: taken today from a two-year-old’s birthday party. There were other colors too; I only took Blue.

Yellow Purple. Cup: from a beer I bought on a rainy night in New Orleans. Drinks there are served in plastic cups so you can take them with you when you leave the bar. Reusable! And also trash. Crayon: placed inside to keep the cup from rolling. I’m not sure why it works but I felt like a genius for thinking of it. Yes, it’s a purple crayon. Towel: high absorbency pack towel, now primarily used on my pillow to go to sleep with wet hair.

Yellow Black White. Bowl: hand-thrown by a young friend. Was covering a steeping cup of tea before it slipped from my hand and shattered. Bandana: passed around between my siblings for summer camp, our last name is scrawled on one corner in my mom’s handwriting. Another corner is completely missing, burned by a floating ember years later.

Green Red. Lobster: brooch I permanently borrowed from my mother’s jewelry. I think it belonged to her mother. I can never figure out quite when to wear it. Fabric: DIY green screen, still hanging from The Justin Hall Show. Gathers a little bit of dust where it hits the floor.

Green Orange. Pom: fashion keychain sold at a clothing store just over the Italian border when we visited France. It delighted my baby so I bought it without her noticing so that she wouldn’t start associating every trip to a store with impulse purchases. I think it’s the only souvenir we bought on that trip. Fabric: pretty sure it’s a seat cushion cover. Probably got it from SCRAP. I used it for transporting and storing fabric art objects like world-shaped blankets. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀

Green Yellow. Tissue Paper: plucked from an unopened present. We’ve been waiting for D to open it until the gift giver could see her do it in person, but the green and yellow paper was staring me in the face. I’ll put it back gingerly.

Green Green. The very middle of this piece, of the deck, of the rainbow, of the year. sequined fabric: a shrug I made by sewing together the ends of material I had leftover from making pasties for a performance. I went out just today looking for more of the same fabric but couldn’t find it. The density of these tiny sequins and the stretchiness of the fabric is pretty remarkable.

Green Blue. Balloons: filled with nitrous oxide and sold to happy patrons outside the Dead and Company concert this week, then scattered on the ground after use. I restrained myself and only picked up the blue ones. The green one was my balloon. Fabric: scarf I bought 11 years ago from a street vendor in Barcelona. I wear it regularly.

Green Purple. Bus Transfer: from Friday, October 30th, 2015, apparently. Guessing I saved it because Halloween is one of my favorite times to ride Muni; costumes really open people up. This may have been from earlier in the night that I convinced a large group of partygoers to follow me a mile to catch a bus that never came. Some had never ridden the bus before and I suspect still may not have to this day. I miss these paper transfers. Jacket: a fuzzy fleece I’ve had for half my life. I grew attached to the Christmas tree we bought for our co-op in San Francisco, my very first Christmas tree. It was a Douglas Fir that looked like it had a face, so we named it Face Douglas. We finally burned it at a beach bonfire at the end of January that year and an ember flew up and burrowed a hole in the fleece. I repaired it with a small tree-shaped patch, sewing on two sequins for eyes. ⠀

Green Black White. Plastic bag: I’ve been ordering more from Amazon lately. That bothers me but I suppose my appetite for convenience surpasses my ethical standards. It’s complicated. Or maybe it’s just capitalism. Also the icon of a baby with its head in a plastic bag always reminds me of a tiny astronaut. Fabric scraps: I couldn’t find the densely sequined green fabric I’d been looking for (see #greengreen) but combining this fuzzy fabric with the asymmetrical sequin on mesh is actually closer to the look I’m going for in this costume. By the way, a different part of this costume came to me in the bag above. Fabric is still something I buy by going into a store. And then hoard the scraps of indefinitely. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀

Blue Red. Scissors: I begin each animation by meditating. I wasn’t excited to do the work of this project today, but I decided to sit anyway and see what happened. On the table next to me lay these broken beauties, begging to be danced. Fabric: a swatch of sweatshirt fleece from my fabric pile, likely from SCRAP. I’ll always keep around a rich, bright blue like this.

Blue Orange. Ball-looking thing: waterproof toddler hat with flaps to block the sun, ends tucked in and stuffed with a scarf. Worn that day in Santa Cruz (pictures taken while said toddler was napping). Fabric: polka dot shirt I was also wearing that day (I got cold while I was shooting without it) and a sheet we were sitting on outside.

Blue Yellow. Life jacket: the lifejackets on this boat all happened to be Blue with Yellow straps. It feels like magic when I can pull off this project in the course of daily life; my only solid chunk of creative freetime is weekend afternoons during toddler naptime and often even that is spoken for. Good thing there is future trash everywhere.

Blue Green. Discs: crocheted “world” badges from a project circa 2011. Made in conjunction with a giant (11ft diameter) fabric earth quilt I took around the city having public conversations on. These badges were supposed to be the portable version, “conversation pieces”: you wear it and if someone asks you what it is, engage them in how they feel about the state of the world and then even give them their own. I have a lot of critical feelings about this body of work, and it’s pretty much how grad school whipped the earnestness out of my practice (or tried to) for better or worse. But I still have these pieces and they still make other people happy so I’ll probably keep slowly giving them away. #socialpractice Flag: earth flag purchased and never used as part of a punny group Halloween costume that involved cardboard cutouts and blue and green duct tape: “P’s on Earth” or “World P’s” 🌍✌️

Blue Blue. Mylar: balloon my toddler carried around inside for weeks, after learning the hard way that they fly away when she opened the door and released one. It’s almost completely out of air, so I shoved it in my backpack to take pictures of on the bus, on a trip where I’ll spend an entire week without her.

Blue Purple. Water Bladder and Mirror: unpacking outside from a dusty week in the desert. The sky is blessedly blue.

Blue Black White. Pillow: my partner got this and about 20 other different cushions (and some rugs) at a warehouse sale full of props used only once on a film set. I think it’s from that pile, anyway. Sock: honestly I have no idea whose sock this is. Found on the floor of our bedroom.

Purple Red. The beginning of Purple and the High Holy Days. Time to get witchy. Coat: Dr. Rheinbrain’s Pataphysician’s Coat, created by Dr. Truly. This animation was created at the Pataphysical Studios, inside a time machine. Satin: also belonging to Dr. Rheinbrain, it is the cloak he wore while officiating my husband’s first wedding. He wore a different outfit to officiate ours. Sequins: a captain’s jacket purchased at a vintage store on a rack called “Desert Sparkle.” This quickly brought into my wardrobe a red tutu and red lace-up boots, which when paired with a Diva Cup necklace created the perfect ensemble for an “Optimistic Future” themed wedding at Burning Man.

Purple Orange. Book: Magic Eye. I bought a bunch of used copies recently on the recommendation of a neuropthomalogist as an eye exercise for a condition I have called Visual Snow. “Really? Magic Eye?” I stopped looking at them after a couple weeks, but the nostalgia is still fun. Apparently animating the image here breaks your ability to see the illusion #sorrynotsorry Pillow case: Ikea. Came with a complete set of sheets, which my friend squirted on once while she was subletting my room. She bought me new ones that were a similar shade, only red. The stain eventually faded and then I had two sets of sheets! #winwin

Purple Yellow. I let myself use a tripod this week. Incorporating Year One into Year Two, possibly creating a formula for Year Three... Paintings: Purple Yellow, from Year One of Rainbow Squared, along with the sixth Yellow from A Tiny Painting a Day Every Day for Seven Weeks, painted postpartum and the inspiration for this series. Circle: base for charging a glowing yellow butterfly bug nightlight, a birthday gift sent in the mail and hard-earned from the post office. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ Triangle: wooden cheese inherited with a tiny kitchen set from our friends who moved away. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ Fabric: things worn camping this weekend: bandana and shorts for me, shorts for D that she pooped in, and a purple t-shirt that J wears one of everyday anyway.

Purple Green. Leaves: gathered specimens from as many different plants as I could find in this garden, realizing afterward I’d stopped before even collecting a quarter of them. Fleece: purchased that morning to create a purple gorilla Halloween costume. Stay tuned.

Purple Blue. Blanket 1: a gift from a dear friend for the birth of our baby, who selected a hand-dyed cosmos pattern without even knowing she would have a constellation as one of her names. I had to wait a couple nights and resort to trickery to be able to photograph it while the now-toddler slept. Blanket 2: When I inquired as to its origins, Justin told me “Missoni home collection from a Japanese department store.” Would have been circa 2003 when he lived there. I’ve always loved the color/pattern/texture (which is soft). Pillows and bed spread: for about six years we slept on Justin’s ex-brother-in-law’s old mattress that he himself purchased used from Craigslist. We finally got a new bed last year, which meant we had to buy new sheets and a new comforter. Unsatisfied with the selection of bold, simple, graphics anywhere, I finally opted to design my own. It took multiple nights of hours on Adobe Illustrator before finally going back to first design I made on the first night. Now theoretically anyone can buy it in pillows, sheets, wall prints, totes, (and more!) at society6.com/iim

Purple Purple. Fabric: the makings of a purple gorilla costume. My mother never sewed, nor did I blame her, growing up in the sixties I can imagine an aversion to that type of domestic work. Or maybe she just never learned. I find some piece of pride in working full time and finding time to sew (or alter) a Halloween costume for my kid. Then I think that the time going into this costume represents time I wasn’t spending volunteering for the midterm elections. But truly I think I am squeezing out the time to do it because I love working with my hands, miss it even. Fiber and fabric and costume let me play. I don’t really follow patterns or even always measure things. I don’t always know what it will look like when I start. It energizes me, so that it’s not like I am making a costume for my daughter as much as the making is for myself. But also, this two-year-old girl wanted to be a gorilla for Halloween and man do I want to celebrate that. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ The other side of this is how much motherhood (or time?) has changed how I lived my principles. This costume is made almost entirely of new materials, and all materials that are new to me. The scraps are obvious trash (and oh I love their aesthetic properties!) but truly all of it is future trash, something she may wear once and never again, or gasp, not at all if she hates it (she refuses to try it on). Even if she loves and treasures it, it too will become landfill one day, even if it gets recycled, still too landfill one day. Making art out of future trash does not mean I don’t create it too. It’s just another stop on its way to obsolescence. And yet. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ Also, using the tripod has completely changed the outcome of these animations. I struggle with wanting to keep the constraint of handheld just to influence the kind of images I make, to not get too swept away with the power of creating illusion. I like the forces jenkiness of handheld animations, but it also takes a lot of patience. The tripod is liberating in a different way.

Purple Black White. Fabric: purchased for the purple gorilla costume and not used, but brought along to a Halloween weekend farm party where it was stuffed with dried leaves, given googly eyes, hung from a geodesic dome, and repurposed as a ghoul. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ Feathers: slowly leaked onto the outdoor dance floor over the course of the night from a Bjork swan and a black hen. Plucked joyously from the ground one by one around 2am; this week is black white!

Black White Red. Ribbon: plucked from the “red” of my trash altar. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ HEPA filter: During the North Bay fires last Fall the air was filled with smoke for miles and miles. I bought a fancy air purifier for the baby’s room. This week the (not-so-baby’s) room had started smelling funny, and the air filter was doing nothing about it. I finally opened it up and it was caked with dust, as apparently these things require maintenance. I finally cleaned it and bought replacement filters. Which is all well and good, except I realized the reason it smelled so skunky in there was the freshly-cut chemdawg drying in the closet.

Black White Orange. This week across California the sky is Black White Orange, filled with smoke and particulate matter for miles and miles from the fires. More and more fires. Table: round, metal, perfect for precariously leaning a tripod against and photographing outdoors in good company, wearing an N-95 mask. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ Safety vest: issued when I became NERT certified: Neighborhood Emergency Response Team. After civilians were instrumental in the aftermath of the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake, the city of SF began training everyday people in disaster recovery, people who can be part of search and rescue teams or even just take care of themselves. My training has lapsed (it lasts two years, I’ve re-upped once) but I still have the hard hat and the vest. Now that it’s dark outside earlier, I’ve started wearing it to bike.

Black White Yellow. Yarn: the leftover ball from a hat I just finished for Delia in time for the cold weather on this Thanksgiving trip to visit family in London. Even though it also fits on my head she complains that it’s too tight and refuses to wear it for very long. Love’s labors lost. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ Blanket: this was Justin’s bed at 11am GMT, after he and Delia left for the day and I stayed behind to battle jet lag and work remotely. Sleeping in someone’s childhood room, Justin and I each in separate twin beds that seem to be previous bunk beds. Delia is sleeping in another childhood room, in her very first big kid bed, another former top bunk with rails on the side. The sheets and linens are all white, painterly in the overcast window light.

Black White Green. Umbrella: a studio light most often used functionally as room lighting since we are too lazy to replace the track light bulbs that keep burning out. I used this one to shoot in with the light off, and the other to backlight it to avoid a blaring glare onto the shiny material. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ Spiral: part of pre-fab birthday decorations that we somehow inherited from a party, not sure which since I can’t recall ever buying any. I held onto the actual decorations for a while in hopes of using them one day but that day never came so I removed this dangling green spiral (and a blue and a purple one) to put in my trash altar then threw away the rest of it.

Black White Blue. Items: used and received over the course of Hanukah last week: wrapping paper and tissue paper and gift bags and candles and a pack of temporary tattoos and the box from an object called “my first Chanukah menorah,” as if that’s a thing. All in blue to reinforce that this is an Important Holiday worth branding and commoditizing. All in blue to correspond perfectly with this project.

Black White Purple. Painting: a few years old, acrylic, painted it in an afternoon in Howard’s backyard. I’ve always kind of liked it. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ Canvas: one of many small blank canvases Justin brings along every time we go to Howard’s, always with the potential to paint. It was raining so I had to photograph inside and realized quickly that Howard’s many technicolor LED-framed masterpieces were changing the color of the canvas. Then I realized this was a feature, not a bug. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ Incidentally, this was shot on top of a purple towel on top of a white table. Rainbow squared squared.

Black White Black White. Paper: “Essays on Colour,” a collection of the color columns from Cabinet Magazine, Issues 1-42, 2000-2011. When I confessed to @jackietori about my project she confessed to me her abiding love of color, a slight surprise (though it shouldn’t have been) given her penchant for wearing black. She shared with me this PDF along with Maggie Nelson’s #Bluets, like sharing treasure. I waited a long time to read it: I wanted to do it in print rather than on a screen, and since each essay is displayed in the color of its topic, it took me a while to muster the audacity to print 198 color pages, which had to be stapled in two booklets (you can see the split right before “Scarlet.” Now on a year-end beach vacation I’m finally reading it, though it’s possible I’ve spent as much time photographing it. ⠀ ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ Authors include (among many others) @davidbyrneofficial, @eileen.myles, @natothompson, @authordanielhandler, and even Maggie Nelson. Colors include (and this is exhaustive): Bice, Beige, Ash, Ruby, Indigo, Hazel, Safety Orange, Rust, Sulfur, Ultramarine, Pink, Chartreuse, Khaki, Sepia, Purple, Pistachio, Gray, Ivory, Silver, Cyan, Yellow, Tawny, Scarlet, Violet, Brown, Olive, White, Mauve, Opal, Maroon, Prussian Blue, Puce, Porphyry, Magenta, Verdigris, Black, Green, Red, Amber, Gold, Orange, Drab. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ Fabric: a robe supplied by and embroidered with the logo of this Florida resort. It’s now covering my legs as I sit in a hotel room with the curtains drawn, editing this as my daughter naps. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ That’s it, 2018. Perhaps a ceremonious way to end the cycle, and now time to start it again.


Unless it is going to turn into dirt, most every object is future trash. Time scales vary, but its relevance is always fleeting. Not unlike a rainbow.

My deep appreciation and celebration of color mingles with a simultaneous regret for its means of production. Manufactured objects are available in a spectrum of colors like never before in history, made from materials and dyes that often have toxic and lasting impact. Manipulating these objects in space through stop-motion is an act of play and reckoning, honoring the objects in my life in all their complicated glory and giving them new meaning.

Year 1

Watercolor Deck

Orange Black White, Painting 14. Fire & Light. Gratitude & Interconnectedness. Creativity & Transcendence. Moderation mastered lets you stay true to your cosmic dance.

Yellow Black White, Painting 21. Sun & Light. Yes & Interconnectness. Power & Transcendence. Self-determination at its furthest leads back to the collective soup. You rule, but what is hierarchy?

Green Black White, Painting 28. Leaves & Light. Family & Interconnectedness. Love & Transcendence. Self, partner, family, community, human, earthling: how do you love when you dissolve your Me?

Blue Black White, Painting 35. Water & Light. Communication & Interconnectedness. Expression & Transcendence. More space for water in the atmosphere, each droplet shooting prisms of light. Are those rainbows sacred or sinister?

Purple Black White, Painting 42. Sky & Light. Mindfulness & Interconnectedness. Intuition & Transcendence. One and all, for once and for all. It’s not a dream.

Blood. Fire. Sun. Leaves. Water. Sky. Light.
Survival. Creativity. Power. Love. Expression. Intuition. Transcendence.
Life. Gratitude. Yes. Family. Communication. Mindfulness. Interconnectedness.


Color offers a divinatory framework that is more immediately open and accessible than oracle systems that use fixed archetypes, with meanings that can extend beyond any one set of interpretations.

Drawing cards from multiple decks before each painting session, the imagery in this series is partially inspired by the major arcana of the Tarot. Consulting this fundamental symbol set provided a point of departure in creating new meanings for the color combinations.

Year 0

Accidental Prototype

with D, watercolors in background


I had told myself that if I became a mother I would no longer have time to make art. This fear gnawed at me during my first pregnancy until I shifted it into a personal challenge. It turns out that I could find time. I could make time: another part of the magic in this practice.

It started with One Tiny Painting a Day, Seven Days a Week for Seven Weeks, a grid of 49 monochromatic watercolor paintings. From Week 13 to 20 of my first child’s life I painted when I could, while she was napping, playing, and even once or twice while breastfeeding.

As a process-oriented practitioner, this act of painting-as-performance was pleasing in itself. Surprisingly though, it was consistently creating a product that proved vital to bolstering my own sense of identity as an artist in the postpartum period and on through motherhood.

Once she was less inert and I went back to work, I continued this newfound practice, adjusting the scope: weekly instead of daily compositions, each in two colors with a foreground and background determined by a 7x7 rainbow grid: Rainbow Squared, what you see here today.

About ilyse


ilyse iris is a creative manager at a nonprofit by day, artist by night and in between, and mama throughout.
See more of her professional work or art work, or watch rainbow squared unfold.


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