Chromophomia

Chromophobia: a fear of contamination and corruption through color. Something that is unknown or appears unknowable. 

 

Oil on panel: A Study of Cellini’s Perseus and the Head of Medusa and Gentileschi’s Judith Beheading Holoferens.   

24” x 30”


 

In the history of Western aesthetics there is a division among the elements of design: Line, form, value, drawing, sculpture, architecture and the absence of color are seen as masculine and the most important of artistic elements and mediums. These masculine elements in art are considered to be virtuous, clean, holy, controlled, and rational; while the element of color is seen as feminine, exotic, and the other. Color is seen as dirty, unholy, dangerous, emotional, uncontrollable, and irrational,  giving the impression to those in the humanities that color must be subdued and controlled. 

 

Depicted in this painting are Cellini's Perseus and the Head of Medusa in white marble and the 55 main colors taken from Gentileschi’s Judith Beheading Holofernes which drip over the clean sculpture. 

The artworks incorporated into this study are examples of masculine versus feminine art. Both figures are seen as the victor over the monster in their stories, though the roles are antithetical. Perseus has slain the beast, Medusa, whose only sins were beauty and the power to kill, while Judith, used her femininity and sexuality in order to kill Holofernes by beheading. 

 

Reinterpreting the sculpture of Perseus and Medusa into white marble translates it into a “pure” masculine form, seen as brave and triumphant. In contrast, breaking Judith Beheading Holofernes into nothing but the main colors and creating the illusion of the various shades and values “bleeding” over the white marble, gives the effect of dirtying the sculpture and defiling the stories of both works of art, creating an imbalance of power between what is seen as masculine and feminine.