Postcards From Chromatic Places

Fifty postcards represent pairs of towns named after colors in each of the 50 states. (Yes, check 'em out with your gas station coffee and your vintage Rand McNally road atlas.) From Blue Earth, Minnesota to White Settlement, Texas to Golden, Colorado, road trip through miles of color residue in the American cultural landscape and explores color’s linguistic presence in the geography of the everyday.

  

Indiana Postcard (above) 

4 x 6 inches. digital file or ink on paper. 2010.

Towns of Pimento and Buckskin.

  

The project—in the form of postcards featuring color fields visually inspired by the works of Joseph Albers and Ellsworth Kelly—presents actual towns on the United States map. The design methodology included (1) combing the atlas to identify every town in the United States named with a word associated with a color, (2) choosing two color-named towns per state, often picking unusual choices from the vast assortment as opposed to the straight-from-the-crayon-box names, (3) pairing each color-named town with a specific Pantone Matching System hue, (4) designing 50 postcards using the colors of the chosen towns, and (5) researching and analyzing the history behind the name of each town.

Chart of Chosen Color-Named Towns in the 50 States

digital file. 2010.

Color-named towns in the U.S. with their corresponding Pantone Matching System colors.

Montana Postcard (above top) 

4 x 6 inches. digital file or ink on paper. 2010.

Towns of Coffee Creek and Sweetgrass.

   

California Postcard (above bottom) 

​4 x 6 inches. digital file or ink on paper. 2010.

Towns of Moss Beach and Lemon Grove.

Oklahoma Postcard (above top) 

4 x 6 inches. digital file or ink on paper. 2010.

Towns of Pink and Dill City.

   

Washington Postcard (above bottom) 

​4 x 6 inches. digital file or ink on paper. 2010.

Towns of Concrete and Navy Yard.

Kansas Postcard (above top) 

4 x 6 inches. digital file or ink on paper. 2010.

Towns of Falun and Maize.

   

Mississippi Postcard (above bottom) 

​4 x 6 inches. digital file or ink on paper. 2010.

Towns of Ecru and Olive Branch.

Oregon Postcard (above top) 

​4 x 6 inches. digital file or ink on paper. 2010.   

Towns of Canary and Lime.

   

Nevada Postcard (above bottom) 

​4 x 6 inches. digital file or ink on paper. 2010.

Towns of Gold Hill and Silver City.

Interesting Stories of Genesis of Town Names

   

I uncovered surprising geneses of certain town names, such as Toast, NC (possibly dubbed from a marketing name of a color of shoes in a nearby box) to Cocoa (perhaps inspired by a leftover Baker’s Cocoa brand tin box package in which the postal service delivered mail). As, arguably, our society becomes more saturated with media and marketing influences, early precedents in this tradition lingering in our landscape prove particularly prescient.

  

Not surprisingly, the largest percentage of color named-towns are derived from hues of the natural physical landscape (such as the river color in Coffee Creek, MT above). In addition, many settlements honored people at the time of the town’s inception. Particularly surprising and controversial today, White Settlement, TX was named because Caucasian settlers created a town in the midst of Native American territory. While likely quite practical at the time to quickly identify the settlement in conversation, today this name seems, at best, not politically correct and, at worst, downright racist. (In fact, in 2005, due to the town name's intonations in our contemporary society, the town voted as to whether or not to change the name. The mayor and some in the community noted that big companies such as Home Depot and Wal-Mart – which would bring jobs and industry to the community – were deterred from moving in due to the town name. Clearly, as the town name was in the atlas at the time of Postcards From Chromatic Places, the town voted down the name change, citing they wanted to preserve the history of the hard-working people who settled the land.

  

Some Europeans named towns based on elements they saw nearby. Ironically, this naming convention arises in many Native American tribes, the people that, in fact, the settlers were trying to squelch. (Native American names traditionally derive from the first thing a mother sees after the birth i.e. famous chiefs such as Crazy Horse, Red Cloud, and Sitting Bull.) In light of the unfortunate marginalization of Native American tribes by the European settlers when they arrived, it is noteworthy and, to some possibly eyebrow-raising, that the towns of Red Cloud and White Shield were named after Indian Chiefs.