Source: Paris Review by Meghan Flaherty
The color gray is no one’s color. It is the color of cubicles and winter camouflage, of sullage, of inscrutable complexity, of compromise. It is the perfect intermediate, an emissary for both black and white. It lingers, incognito, in this saturated world.
It is the color of soldiers and battleships, despite its dullness. It is the color of the death of trees. The death of all life when consumed by fire. The color of industry and uniformity. It is both artless and unsettling, heralding both blandness and doom. It brings bad weather, augurs bleakness. It is the color other colors fade to once drained of themselves. It is the color of old age.
Because I have no style, I defer to gray. I find it easier to dress in gray scale than to think. I buy in bulk, on sale, in black and white and shades between—some dishwater desolate, some pleasing winter mist. I own at least five cardigans in grandpa gray.
My mother always called me plain. She saw this as a flaw to be corrected. She wanted the whole world dressed in dazzling color—even me. I never quite complied. I have the fashion sense of Vladimir and Estragon and the panache of my New England nana. When left to my devices, I choose to be unobtrusive. I choose gray. It suits my diffidence and soothes my extroversion. It is the color, rather than the sound, of silence. It sits with monkish, folded hands and asks for nothing. It never shouts. It never pushes. As the French painter Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres said, “Better gray than garishness.”
I’m drawn to gray, as to a dream, but not to any old gray. Not storm-cloud gray or corporate monolith. I prefer tranquil gray: the undyed wool of sheep in rain, the mood inside a Gerhard Richter painting, the mottle of an ancient cairn. I don’t mean any one gray either but the entire underrainbow of the world, the faded rose and sage and caesious. Liard, lovat, perse. The human eye perceives five hundred—not a mere fifty—shades of gray. Paul Klee called it the richest color, “the one that makes all the others speak.”