Susan Klein remembers when the possibilities of the rainbow came into full color in her mind. She was teaching a college art course on color theory, and she gave her students a question to contemplate — one that just popped into her mind.
"What would it look like to make a black rainbow?"
It was partially a joke but the question held some truth: A rainbow of color doesn't have to be the bright arc people typically envision. After the class, Klein answered her own question; she made what she conceived as the black rainbow.
"Instead of bright red, it's a dull maroon color," Klein says, "then a really dark orange. It's all the colors of the rainbow but dark. So it's not very colorful. It's a very sad looking rainbow. I thought it was funny."
That sense of irony followed Klein all the way to a new collaborative art exhibit opening at Redux this Friday. It's called, appropriately, The Rainbow Show. Klein and artists Adam Eddy and Joshua Lynn came together to fill Redux with this ubiquitous symbol of enthusiasm. To Klein, the use and, maybe, overuse of the rainbow provided her with a conceptual challenge in creating work that included ROY G BIV.
"We think of rainbow imagery as non-intellectual, kind of New Age-y imagery and [for] children's toys," she says. "'Is this OK for me to use this imagery that has these connotations?' Connotations of low art in popular culture. For me it's about giving myself permission in the studio to not be bound by any rules of what I should be doing."
The irony and humor of an artist utilizing the rainbow stuck with Klein as she created her work, but the cliche she once believed the color pattern represented melted away.
"There's a lot more to it than I thought because of the way people respond to pieces that use the rainbow in different ways," Klein says. "I think I learned that sometimes the ideas that seem the most obvious, the dumbest and the most generalized can actually be a smart idea that has staying power."
While Klein contemplated how to take a surrealist approach to one of Lisa Frank's motifs, Adam Eddy was also having a good time with the rainbow in his studio — "rainbows are fun," he says.
"Enjoying myself in the studio is hugely important to the creation of my work."
Instead of pulling out any old works and fitting them into the multi-colored theme, Eddy created a series of new art for the show. Working within the context of creating a collaborative exhibition that would be displayed in an art center made the work all the simpler for Eddy.
"I love making work for exhibitions because I think of exhibitions as works of art or 'units' in and of themselves," he says.
One of his pieces, a wooden rope swing, is set to be completed by guests during the exhibit's run.
"[It] is a first for me," Eddy says about creating such a piece. "I'm interested in making the audience a key part of the work."
More than a shared symbol, Eddy and Klein each stumbled onto a reason that Kermit the Frog penned his renowned ode to the rainbow and why the metal singer Dio shouted out about the sadness of an unlit place holding the flight of hues captive. After a couple months painting canvas songs to this most famous of skyward color spectrums, both artists made a rainbow connection.
Klein noticed other artists using rainbow imagery, or tarot card depictions and astrology. They're related in her assessment.
"I think in political and economic times when people feel stressed or don't have control over what's happening in the world, they go towards the occult and these other ways to think about logic in the world when things seem especially illogical," Klein says.
Reflecting on that idea, Eddy sums up the rainbow pretty simply.
"Putting together this show made me realize people love rainbows because they're positive," he says. "I think we're all so fucking tired of the endless loop of negativity on the news and internet. Rainbows are a symbol of choosing to think positive thoughts. That's cool."