San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, 1998; Havana, Cuba, 2000

"Color possesses me. I don't have to pursue it. It will possess me always, I know it. That is the meaning of this happy hour. Color and I are one. I am a painter."
...Paul Klee, Diary, 4/16/1914


I am flying as I write this; flying on disembodied blue ceramic wings. Not birds, not angels, just wings, four pairs of wings around a diamond of open-centered blue. Looked at another way, four pairs of blue-robed gossipers kneel face to face, trading in everyone's business. Still another way: ground comes forward, blue becomes deep space, the holes in lace, a lake seen through a flake of snow.


Brick? Barn? Both and neither, and something else all its own, an essence of heat and sun. At midday it takes on a flat ruddiness, very pretty, very "Mexican," but it's the slanting light of morning and late afternoon that brings -- that springs -- it all to life, so intense it confounds the senses and feels like sound, a tenor sax wail for the eye, the very voice of heat.


In my Crayola 64 Colors box, it was "Ultramarine." But this is Ultramarine electrified, Ultramarine on LSD and steroids, a child's Disney dream of water. This is a color for casinos, for showgirls' shiny dresses; a cartoon color not meant for houses, for ordinary walls. In Nebraska it would be a joke.

This color has a voice. It says: The land is dry and hard; dust and grit ride the wind. Against these facts, within the heart of these facts, I recall the cenote -- a reminder that the soul of the dryest place was once an ocean.


If dry earth could speak, it would speak in this color; it would speak in sandstone and gold and implacable sun. For me, these are words of astonishment. At home we rarely marvel at walls. But here the walls and doorways call out for mat and frame, and I imagine a gallery the size of the Pentagon, or better yet the Pentagon itself turned to the artist's use: its walls washed white, soft oblique light bathing weathered stucco the color of speaking stones and heat -- and fierce refusal not to make beauty even in the face of poverty, pestilence, and politics.

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