My workshop director also complained about using “ominous” to sum up my own description of my therapist.

I’m watching a horror movie about a seance investigator lured to a haunted boarding school in Cumbria – all postwar olive and slate grey, wet ivy and thick peaty brown, every texture dense as hedges and wool overcoats.

The colors I associate with my psychiatrist are brighter, yet formally so.  I can’t say any more whether the shades I’ve chosen for her office match the colors she chose; I don’t know how much in concert they were with the clinic building’s interior – or how restrained she might have felt by the color scheme surrounding her office.  I do remember pinks.

Byron Kim is a “narrative minimalist:” he makes canvases with just one or two elements, and then explains why he has chosen these stripped-down pictures.  All are significant to him, and in the series I saw straightforward in recognition, but carry no obvious meaning for the audience.  The works I saw were presented with blurb explanations.  One I remember was a large painting, about my height and beyond my armspan, painted with blurry square patches in mismatching shades of pink.  This was a painting of Kim’s childhood house: he had shown his parents and sisters a set of paint samples, asking all four to choose the color they thought most resembled the color of the house.

He doesn’t say whether he had any access to the original, whether the house could have been found again.  Presumably, it was long sold and long repainted.  Kim doesn’t say whether he had photographs, but sun-spoiled pictures may not have helped.  He doesn’t say whether he used or matched the housepaint colors his family wanted.

The swatches vary in hue and saturation: grey-pink, candy-pink, shrimp-pink, icing pink.  They make a disagreeable crowd, plaster-dull and heavy – these choices of memory insult each other, push against each other.  The swatches are posted alongside the canvas on their white cards with Kim’s family’s handwritten notes – separated and framed by closer variations, they’re harmonious, all appealing, brighter and glossier than on the canvas.

No one in his family chose the same color – Kim consulted them independently; their choices weren’t collaborative.

My memory of my psychiatrist’s office – and her interactions with me – are constituted the same way.  I’m not even absolutely sure pink is the right color – lavender, mauve, grey?  How dark were these colors – how did the light offset the interior?  Have I confused the colors of her suits with the colors of the walls?  Am I muting the colors, or painting the whole room in one shade?

And what does it matter, really, that I can tell my readers what color this room was, what color her blazer was, what color the couch was?


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