This Color Can Be Dirty, Deceptive—and Divine

Cloth to Computers, Blue's Rich History Keeps Multiplying Its Meanings

The meaning of blue lies in its contradictions.

The color is associated with introversion and introspection, but it’s also associated with the expansiveness and openness of oceans and skies. It’s a sacred color in the world’s religions, but blue movies are obscene movies. And while the color can represent life in many ways, it’s also true that “when we die, we turn blue,” said art historian Carol Mavor. Blue, she added, “does seem to depend on a sense of paradox.”

The color and all its permutations were the subject of a …

Art Can Help Us Understand Reality, Even While Transforming It

It Crafts Beauty and Truth from Mundane—Sometimes Ugly—Daily Existence

In their different ways, David Simon and Jamel Shabazz both have transformed gritty reality into art, drawing inspiration from the complex, often troubled urban-scapes of places like New York, …

The Bug That Had the World Seeing Red

How a Mesoamerican Insect Created the Globe's Most Coveted Color

Once there was a color so valuable that emperors and conquistadors coveted it, and so did kings and cardinals. Artists went wild over it. Pirates ransacked ships for …

How the Skull Is an Ally in Art

When the Ultimate Symbol of Death Serves as Muse, It Can Force Us to Confront Our Own Mortality

You walk through the darkness of the crypt, with choral music playing from hidden speakers. All around you, human bones are arranged in patterns, tiling the walls, divided by femurs, …

Even Godless Hipsters Love the Stigmata

From Medieval Manuscripts to Burning Man, We Use Art to Get Closer to the Sacred

The yearning for intimacy with the sacred remains as potent today as it was in medieval days, when art was preoccupied almost entirely with depicting the divine. Last night’s spirited …