History as we know it does not always equate to the truth. Often, we are taught that the books in our history classes hold the facts, the right and true path of our ancestors. This couldn’t be farther from the truth.
If our world was a canvas, it would never be fully completed. As parts of the painting were being filled in, other parts would be fading. Just because our modern truth of the painting may be faded now, that wasn’t the case thousands of years ago. There has been a toxic thread throughout history, weaving in and out of music, art, and culture. This thread has changed what we perceive as “beautiful art”. Sculptures and statues that are in the most prestigious of museums are often seen in what color? White.
The missing part of the equation here is two things, the first being a wide belief that the equation is actually complete, and the second simply being color. These statues across our planet were once dripping in brilliant colors. It seems so simple and some might say that this is too much of a fuss. What I say is that color is the truth, and because these pieces of art have been faded for so long, it’s now been adopted as a norm in our society. White is not the norm for these statues, vibrant color is.
It’s simple in its tangible materials but the message is far greater than that. Bring the knowledge of color back into these statues so we shatter the perfect white bubble that these pieces are trapped inside.
Since these statues and sculptures are so ancient, time has been wearing and tearing at them for years. So when they were discovered, oftentimes the paint wouldn’t be visible to the naked eye. It’s a combination of ignorance and deliberate action that caused this whitewashing to be passed down through society and culture. This domino effect has continued into today’s time, and the pieces are still falling. From the beginning, because of the lack of technology to see the details, it’s at the very least understandable to see why people would have mistaken the statues to be predominantly white. However, since that discovery, we have seen signs throughout history of people ignoring the truth or even going against it entirely.
Art Historians have written about the “pristine white marble” and how much more beautiful it is than anything else. Some have even gone out of their way to destroy the color in these art pieces, doing away with color entirely to continue the showcasing of incomplete white sculptures. All of these actions that took place hundreds of years ago have greatly affected us today. This has poisoned us as a society because even if it’s just subconscious, we are led to believe that the best of the best art is supposed to be white marble. This illusion has bled into multiple mediums including film, music, and other artists ‘copying’ the white marble technique. These lies have been put on one of the highest pedestals in history, and even with the knowledge of the truth today it’s still as high as ever.
When people go to visit a museum and they look upon a room of white, they are led to believe that white is better. By led I mean the fact that they are in a world-class museum, staring at priceless works of statues, and most of them are white. The world-class museum is there to build into your subconscious that whatever lies inside this museum is “the best” because the museum is so recognized and renowned.
Art Historians have used journals, paintings, and artifacts as clues to decipher the true colors of these ancient statues. Now, there is technology that is able to detect the faded pigments to get a close accuracy. This is colliding two distinct worlds, Art and Science. There are now replicas of these ancient works of art that show the reality behind the white marble. If this can be moved towards the norm in museums and society, we can minimize the whitewashing flood that has scoured the planet. The importance of color might not be seen as a priority. I’d like to argue that it is because it celebrates color, which contributes to celebrating color today and for the future. It’s for the children of color who visit the Met museum and see the original beautiful, vibrant color instead of white. It’s for everyone in schools to look into their history textbooks and see the mistakes we have done and more importantly, the mistake is corrected. It’s to not whitewash but wash away the white so colors can be included too and a balance to begin. The domino effect must crash down eventually, but with activism and spreading the knowledge of color, humanity can speed the process along.
Color is a beautiful thing that has enhanced humanity. If we can put the colors back into history, then hopefully we can embrace all colors now. Thank you.