What happens when you live in a place where people wear bright colors? And then go somewhere that people wear only black? Do you look funny?
If you live on a tropical island, all the colors you see are bright, saturated jewel tones from fuchsia flowers to crazy-colored fruits. It makes sense to me that you would wear the colors that surround you, in wild Hawaiian prints.
But how did the Swedes come to their electric-colored graphics and prints? I don’t have the answer. I only have the examples: Think Marimekko, think Josef Frank and his crazy Manhattan pattern. Few Americans go that graphic.
A few weeks ago, I went to the new photography museum here in Stockholm, Fotografiska, to see photos from Sandy Skoglund, an American artist with Swedish roots: http://fotografiska.eu/Museet/Utstaellningar/The-Artificial-Mirror. I love her crazy bi-chromic landscape photos, bright red and green, or electric lime and gray. Made in the 80s before digital editing would have made them so much easier to create, these are entire stage sets of crazy surreal events, ghost animals, and human dramas.
My favorite is called “Revenge of the Goldfish,” a crazy tableau of orange fish swimming in a bright blue room. The complementary colors make it pop, and the fish are lovely. I think of the little kid sitting there, suffering for all the fish he flushed down the toilet. I love it.
But I digress. Skoglund’s colorful work strikes me as somehow so completely Swedish, and not American — the saturated color and pairings are shocking to an American, I think. She also has a set of these crazy patterned images that meld food and design and weird fabrics, and it all seems like something I could pick up in a design shop here somewhere in the hip part of town.
While people here also dress in head-to-toe black, I look for these kinds of juxtapositions in the brightly clashing outfits I see women wearing here, or the red pants on the men (so Euro!). And I think, “oh yes! I could wear those crazy fuchsia polka dot tights!”
But would I ever do it in the US? No. And I have yet to do it here either, but I can certainly see why Swedes wear bright clothing, paint their walls in orange and fuchsia, or sit on red couches, as the days get darker and darker. Perhaps that is the source of all this wild color.