Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Naming Colors

The nuances of natural color never cease to amaze us.  And so I created this video where Dan meditates on finding precise words — 
and I mix precise combinations of paint — to match the color of a simple berry. 

 Naming Colors

Naming Colors

Soapy purple  no, deep soft
   pink  those berries . . .

All my conscious life
I’ve striven, blind to other
earthly orderings, to get
them “right”: without
clear gainful 

swear I was a painter,
potter, or at least some
dyer of fine cloth,
seeking ideas . . .
        But no such
chance, with unclear
goals & gently
       Just inner need
to pierce small moments
of the day: this ritual
that from my youth
I’ve naturally

      Now older
& so often foggy-minded
when I rise, can tell my
morning clarity of mind, my
cast of eye, by how quickly
I cease groping.  How
quickly I’m satisfied with
my first “mental
match” —
shared with my artist wife,
when trimming growth
       around the yard, or on
       our “viewing” walks down
rural paths.  
I trust the most, more
       skilled & industrious,
       in many ways,
than I . . .
                And so I wait
       on tenterhooks, while 
       feigning nonchalance
       (another of our
       games) for her

 I believe they’re more a cloudy
      rose, those berries . . . "


Suzanne Stryk   Naming Colors    30" x 22"    mixed media  on paper     
The Naming Colors painting appeared in "Love," an exhibit at Second Street Gallery 
(Charlottesville, VA  2006) curated by Leah Stoddard. The show featured collaborations 
between writers and artists. The images in the video are details from the painting, including
Dan's handwritten poem.


  1. Dan and Suzanne, many thanks for all your innovative poem-videos. Because I’m a painter, “Naming Colors” has a special appeal (I obsess over mixing oil paint to get an exact color). The end of the poem strikes me as very funny!
    Liz Shearer

  2. Thank you, Liz. Mixing colors can be obsessive for me, too, or the opposite – quite intuitive and effortless. Sometimes I match a complex color without much thought. It's what Ben Shahn was referring to when he coined the term "learned intuition" – intuition gained after many years of art making.
    Glad you caught the humor in the poem's ending!

  3. robmccormick@gmail.comAugust 5, 2015 at 6:46 PM

    “Just inner need to pierce small moments of the day . . .” reminds me of your sketchbooks, Suzanne. I saw them years ago displayed at the Fernbank Museum in Atlanta. Very fine poem-video.

  4. It's very special you remember my show in Atlanta after so many years, Rob. I think you're right about how that line relates to my sketchbook drawings.

  5. The berries floating in black recall planets in deep space. As they gradually morph from purples to rose-reds, from fuzzy to bright to dim glow, my own visual perception is heightened as I listen to the poem—a subtle visual-aural counterpoint.

  6. I realized the berries looked like planets only while making the video, Tony. I love when the process itself (painting, video making) leads to something new.