Tuesday, October 21, 2008

A Horse Barn of a Different Color

So, I am painting my horse barn purple. Well, actually, according to the California Historic Paints Collection chip chart, it’s Muted Mulberry.
There are no other purple barns on my road. Red or white barns figure highly in the decorating schemes of most of the farmers on the Alna Road, otherwise known as Route 218, that slices north from Wiscasset, the “Prettiest Village in Maine,” along the Sheepscot River to its source in Palermo. Maybe I’ve never seen a purple barn until now. [I'll upload a photo once I get a couple sides finished.]

When my bemused, far-more-artistic-than-I, somewhat conservative sweetheart asked me what the color connoted to me, I answered, “Fall, shadow, history, depth, desert flowers…” and something else I cannot now remember. When he arrived, on his way to his bagpipe class—yes, one can learn bagpiping in Newcastle, Maine—for inspection, I’d already painted most of one side. He tilted his ball cap at a decided angle trying to see what I see, to no apparent avail.

After six hours of painting, the pigment had lost its blue and red hue to me, and took on a rich, deep grey and charcoal look. To Mike, it looked like some hippies’ décor choice for their basement apartment in the mid-1970s, replete with blacklights and Peter Max posters.

This new barn, put up in the fall of 2007, had no paint on it until the painting and snowboarding savant Cody Drever climbed his extension ladder this summer and painted the peaks a flaming orange stain. I’d asked him to get the peaks since I had no ladder that would reach, and I left the color to him since I was too distracted at the time to care. By what, I cannot now recall, but when I saw the orange stain, I blanched.

Cody is one of the kindest, most generous young men I have ever met. A gifted, even a little famous, snowboarder, he comes to Saddleback with me and my son, now seven, and snowboards with him virtually all day. Cody won’t take more than a lift ticket and maybe lunch in payment. The thought of rejecting our friend’s stain choice made me blanch again.

I tried to reach him and tell him that the color made me a little crazy and that I didn’t know what to do next, but only managed to get his voicemail. We’ve not spoken since and I pray that he is generous enough to forgive my caprice.

So, with both peaks stained orange and the rest of the barn awaiting color, I went yesterday to the paint store. The mom of one of my high school students helped me consider colors. She had also put up some wallpaper for me years ago and knew my neighborhood. She told me about the colors she, another horse woman, was using and they sounded familiar and interesting.

Long story short, I liked Standish Blue until it started to look like too grey like dull maritime deck paint.I liked the buttery yellows and the adobe pinks.And I loved the purples. All of them. As I watched Mike try to untilt his ball cap, I said, offering what comfort I could muster, “Hey, I could have gone with Concord Grape or Beauport Aubergine."

The barn’s metal roof is a muted green that I also love. It reminds of the sagebrush and other dusty desert plants I grew up with in California.

Despite a degree in dance, I lack confidence in the visual and painterly arts. Give me a studio and some bodies and I can weave some understanding. A canvas or the side of a barn? Not so much. I understand almost any other kind of metaphor better than color, and have always sought copious counsel or left it to another to choose, so this decision is a radical leap.

Maybe this leap is a sign that I am coming to terms with my rapidly receding extremely advanced youth and putting weight on the foot destined to hold me up through the middle years. What more can I hope for than, rich color, depth, desert flowers and an understanding of my shadow?

I can’t wait to see what it looks like in the snow.


Anonymous said...

American Colonial and French Provincial, I am told, describe with some aptitude the historical nature of muted mulberry. The color was indeed hijacked in the the early 1970's for use in basement apartments. I wonder if restoring a sense of color is rather like restoring certain words worn out by overuse and unseemly connotation. Does one use them anyway or simply find new words?

Andrea said...

Purple barn!! I can't wait to see it! I say down with New England blah...if I never see a white house with black shutters again...I think along your stomach-turningly "McCain-Palin"-signed road is the perfect place for a color revolution.

snoozetska said...

Oh Andrea, you got that right. And the annoying thing is that those in the white houses believe they are historically original. Actually, they're paying homage to the wannabe period of the Colonial Revival, not the Colonial Period.
The 16-1700s were rife with color--leaded and poisonous--rich, deep color.

Alna Dem said...

There's a typo in your post, dear. Wiscasset is the "pettiest" town in Maine.

I like the Mulberry.