Reaction to The Secret Life of Color

This podcast, 99 Percent Invisible, is absolutely brilliant. I haven’t listened to many other episodes of the podcast, but the concept of interviewing artists, such as historical artists, like the artist from this episode, is very intriguing — there really is a podcast for everything. I’m not really sure what I was expecting out of this podcast, but an interview with the artist, Kassia St. Clair, discussing the history of general colors was definitely not it.

I loved how she would introduce colors in a historical manner, always giving a time period for when the color was really popular for the first time. For example, on the color red (cochineal), she said, ‘…But this one rather than being European is very good common in South and Central America and was used very widely by Aztecs and Incas in their culture. Again, it was associated with rulers and power, but it was also sort of a part of their taxation system in a way.”

St. Clair introduced the color through history, moving her way to how it was made, and in this case, cochineal was made by bugs — 70,000 to be exact. New fact I learned! I honestly had no idea that some colors were made from bugs. I have basically always opened the box of art supplies and picked the color I wanted, or picked the color I wanted via my computer screen. I’ve never really dug into how the actual, physical colors are made. Another shocking thing is that you can find bugs in food! St. Clair said, ‘If you were to look at your strawberry yogurt or something like that, you might see that it’s been colored with carminic acid, or you might see it down as the colorant E120. That is in fact cochineal bugs.’ That’s kinda nasty…

Overall, a very educational and intriguing listen. I’m always fascinated while learning new things about the art world I claim to be a part of.

Student at New York University. Passionate about visual art and the intersection between technology and sports.