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Color in the Dark

Updated: Aug 17, 2023

When the sun goes behind the clouds even in the 20 hour summer days in Copenhagen, I have to turn on all the lamps, move my work next to the window and you can still hear me yelling with fresh exasperation, “I can’t see!:” meaning: I’m a visual artist and I can’t see!!!! In the winter, shops with colorful cut flowers are open on national holidays when grocery stores and pharmacies are not - color is life; the physical and emotional deprivation felt from darkness makes color a first responder. Without light you can only see in black and white, and with little light, life in grayscale falls short.

We moved to Copenhagen, Denmark four years ago because we were running in place. It took four years for my son to get to the appropriate school accommodation through the system. Meanwhile, the sister he begged for was born, Tega Elodie. She was the nightingale lullaby that capped off a day begun by his bright, anticipatory morning song. On the way to Tega there was a miscarriage at three months, which left a nurtured love truncated. It marked me. On the bright side, having a child in Denmark is a supportive experience, with a home visiting nurse, mother’s group, affordable childcare - compared to the sense of economic failure, social isolation and medical trauma of the experience in the United States.

I used the time my daughter began daycare to begin drawing in private. Because I had few clients with whom I could continue to work with overseas, it was post-covid and so many people were “taking a break” from living through social media, I could focus on telling my own story through drawing. I hatched figures in pencil of varying width and darkness, telling a story through overlapping layers within a single image. I had brought only black pens with me when I moved and I cautiously approached the goal of communicating in a higher contrast, graphic language that did not rely on the emotion perceived in color.

Now, on the local ground I display works in artistically inclined shops in Copenhagen like a hair salon, coffee shop, and secondhand clothing boutiques. The work relates broadly, as illustration should, and people come up and tell me, “that image reminds me of when I…” The work engenders a conversation rather than serving as a soapbox. The work serves as a reminder that even in low visibility, we can find a pulse, and spark some light in each other.

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