Orange Ad/Verse; 2018–2020.
The sealed box of Quick Load Fuji transparency film was abandoned in a donation box in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania: expose and develop before 12/2002.
It was October 2015, when I snatched the curious 5.5” x 11” rectangular green box and stored it in an oversized Tupperware to live with all of the other boxes of unexposed/expired film I had no particular plan for. The free twenty pieces of film made the cut when Donald Trump was elected and I donated the upside-down American flag that hung from my balcony and all my photographic chemicals that wouldn’t be able to immigrate with me to Ottawa, Canada. I said goodbye to my fulfilling low-paying adjunct position at Carnegie Mellon University and all the other familiar aspects that made Pittsburgh my home for the last decade. The box was fifteen years expired, but full of possibility.
A few months ago, while settling into my new Ottawa studio, I sliced the expiration sticker seal and pulled out a piece of preloaded film. I slid the long elongated slide into my holder and then into the camera back. I pulled an army green Canada Boy Scout uniform shirt over my head and grabbed the only orange thing in the room– part of my lunch– a perfect mandarin orange with one green leaf still firmly attached. I held it up to my right glasses lens. Why? I suppose I like to test my colour film with something orange.
When I was packing, donating and gifting my belongings in 2017, I got a message on social media from an acquaintance. ‘Heard you were moving, thought maybe I could buy some of your furniture for my real estate staging company?’ There were things we had to let go of. Our mid-century modern house had a built-in bar with three stools that I bought at flea market for $100. On weekend evenings, me, my husband and son used to make root beer floats in fancy champagne flutes and sit on our bar stools making the only sounds one makes when devouring a root beer float. I sent the acquaintance pictures of the stools, realizing we were a couple weeks away from the arrival of the moving truck and the stools couldn’t stay and there was no built-in bar awaiting us in Ontario. The stools were a speckled dark orange pleather. In the iphone photograph you could see, (thrown out of focus) our blood orange couch in the background of the photograph. She responded within seconds... ‘No thanks, I’m orange averse.’
Orange Averse or is it Orange Adverse, Averse? I often will have the phrase on repeat, like an earworm without music. The phrase perseverates. The only thing my young son cried over when we left the US were the orange bar stools. He had been conceived and born in Pittsburgh, his grandparents lived 4 doors down and he was growing up on the exact one- way street his father grew-up on, yet the orange stools were what stung the most. He sobbed as the nice lady stacked them into her minivan and I’ve since closed the social media profile that caused orange averse related anxiety.
I’ve told this story to other artists– painters in particular laugh at how ridiculous it is. Hating a whole colour? We poke fun, entertaining the idea that it is indeed a real affliction listed on WEBMD: Orange Averse, a terrible eye disorder that only affects women (so there is no money for research to find a cure). Orange– the silent killer. If you are orange adverse and feel a seizure coming on, be sure to cover one eye and look away.
When I think about why I left the United States, for whatever reason I associate it with this phrase, Orange Averse.
Orange is about high visibility, attracting the attention of its’ surroundings. It is loud– think detour, yield, caution, AMBER ALERT, get out and keep out! Prisoners. I see the horrors of Agent Orange, fear, caustic chemicals, harm, explosions and toxic fumes and the orange level of Homeland Security (high risk of terrorist attacks). It’s the colour of potassium dichromate before I mix it with ferric ammonium citrate under the orange glow of the darkroom safelight. Arsenic and turmeric, all the shades of orange that are called saffron, Krishna. Vitamin C, Pixiestix and slushies. 1980’s era NASA spacesuits, and life saving devices like the one thrown to me after our sailboat capsized in Lake Michigan when I was 5. I see psychedelics, poppies, autumn leaves, pumpkins and Halloween (or if you prefer, All Saints Eve). Orange is associated with heat, joy and sunshine. It’s yellow + red, cadmium, vermilion, persimmon, rust. It’s the shock of hair on the pubescent boys’ head that walks past my house every morning at 8:42 who I believe holds secret knowledge. The royal family of the Netherlands belong to the House of Orange. Red squirrels are actually orange. This colour represents enthusiasm, fascination, amusement, happiness, creativity, and determination. In heraldry, orange indicates strength and endurance. Lust is read as orange in literature and orange trees are a symbol of love. Nacho cheese, Tang, the Utah landscape and my living room couch. I conjure the Pre-Raphaelites, impressionists and post-impressionists and their quest to capture the colour of natural light. The orange fruit has individual juice-filled vesicles that are sweet, bitter and tangy; Common, Blood (I ate one for the first time in Pompeii), Valencia, Bergamot, Clementine, and of course, the Mandarin. When those fruits are not yet ready to pick, they are the green of my sealed box of Fuji chrome Provia 100F. In optics, orange is the colour seen by the eye when looking at light with a wavelength between approximately 585–620 nm. It has a hue of 30° in HSV colour space. It’s tertiary, not primary.
I shot six pieces of film that day and sent them to a photo lab in Montréal for processing. Of the six, one image turned out. Five blank, one perfect. In Confucianism orange is the colour of transition.