Gender and Color: A fall symposium in Buffalo

UB symposium to look at how color relates to health, gender, intelligence, identity, status, nation, religion

Release Date: September 26, 2014

“To create this rich array of artistic and scholarly conversations, we have partnered with the UB Art Galleries, the Albright-Knox Art Gallery, the Burchfield Penney Art Center and the Casa de Arte Gallery.”
Kari Winter, director, Gender Institute
University at Buffalo

BUFFALO, N.Y. – Human societies invest color with intense meanings.  Color, like gender, is associated with virtually all aspects of identity:  health, emotions, intelligence, status, class, race, nation, religion, and aesthetic taste.

On Oct. 2 and 3, in celebration of Gender Week, the University at Buffalo Gender Institute will present a symposium at which an international group of artists and scholars will explore the myriad ways in which interpretations of gender and color infuse human consciousness. They will look at color significance, fear of color, the cultural meaning of whiteness, color in creation myths, in optics, in pathology and more.

“To create this rich array of artistic and scholarly conversations,” says Kari Winter, director of the Gender Institute, “we have partnered with the UB Art Galleries, the Albright-Knox Art Gallery, the Burchfield Penney Art Center and the Casa de Arte Gallery.”

The opening reception will be hosted by the Casa de Arte Gallery, 141 Elmwood Ave., Buffalo, on Thursday, Oct. 2, from 6-9 p.m. in conjunction with a gallery preview exhibition, “Gender and Color in the Aztec and Maya Cultures.”

The symposium itself, which is free and open to the public, will take place on Friday, Oct. 3, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. in 105 Harriman Hall on the UB South Campus.

Panelists and keynote speakers will address topics ranging from the coercive role of color in the gendering of children through toys to the use of the color blue in concepts of “queer negativity,” as well as the roles of color in various artistic traditions and the phenomenon of synesthesia, in which color is tasted, smelled and heard.

One session will feature three major Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) scholars who will explore how Haudenosaunee cultures imagine “whiteness.” Speakers will be Jolene Rickard, director of the American Indian Program at Cornell University; Scott Stevens, director of the American Indian Program at Syracuse University; and Alyssa Mt. Pleasant, assistant professor of Native American and indigenous studies in the UB Department of Transnational Studies.

The symposium’s capstone event will be a First Friday lecture by Scottish artist and cultural critic David Batchelor at 8 p.m. in the Albright-Knox Art Gallery. The admission fee will be $5. He will present research from his newest book, “The Luminous and the Grey” (2014), which considers color and luminosity in “creation myths, in industrial chemistry, in recent thinking on optics and in the specific forms of luminosity that saturate the modern city.”

In his path-breaking 2000 book, “Chromophobia,” Batchelor demonstrated that "a chromophobic impulse – a fear of corruption or contamination through color – lurks within much Western cultural and intellectual thought.

“This,” he says, “is apparent in the many and varied attempts to purge color, either by making it the property of some foreign body – the oriental, the feminine, the infantile, the vulgar, the pathological – or by relegating it to the realm of the superficial, the supplementary, the inessential or the cosmetic.”


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