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Baldessari’s Urns - Carson P. Hardy

In 1966, John Baldessari burned his entire collection of paintings. The ashes were returned in Nine urns, One URN was the size used for infants. A picture of these urns, along with a jar of cookies baked with the cremains, became part of an exhibit entitled, “The Cremation Project (1971)”

arbitrary colors

Here lie the hues

chosen from impulse

Gold instead of lemon-yellow, say

Scarlet instead of red,

Random colors mixed with


His choice of lines, shapes, colors,

Repeated in a planned way

complimentary colors

Here lie the hues

opposite each other

on the wheel

Red and green, blue and orange, yellow and violet,

Antonym colors mixed with


His way of creating the illusion of depth

on a two-dimensional surface

cool colors

Here lie the hues

that chill

green, blue, and violet and their offspring

turquoise, cyan, and purple,

mostly calming colors mixed with


His connection of the parts to a whole

and with each other

intermediate colors

Here lie the hues

next to each other

on the wheel

yellow with orange, orange with red, red with violet,

violet with blue, blue with green,

neighbors mixed with

Point of view.

His angle on the subject

neutral colors

Here lie the hues

of low saturation

the whites, the greys, the blacks, the browns,

colors without color

used as background to unify diversity, mixed with

Principles of design.

His way of using line, shape, form

The elements of art

primary colors

Here lie the hues

from which all others are made

blue, red, and yellow,

they cannot be made by mixing other colors

autocephalous, mixed with


His learned mastery of


secondary colors

Here lie the hues

made by mixing the primaries

in equal parts

red and yellow make orange, yellow and blue make green,

red and blue make purple,

offspring mixed with


His sequential operation using various techniques

warm colors

Here lie the hues

of tender

visual temperature

surrounding orange on the wheel

red, red-orange, orange, orange-yellow, yellow,

fire’s color mixed with


His brooding

the absence of color


the empty infant urn

in which the artist’s words resound,

“I was truly sick.

I had no idea what I would do next

But I knew it wouldn’t be painting.”


Carson P. Hardy is a grandpa and retired teacher and theologian. He lives in Norfolk, Ct.


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