We used to make colors for the Canadian Government. I worked up in the blues, her work was controversial. Raised near a rookery, she believed color should be multisensual.
"So," I asked as our food arrived, "what are your favorite movies?"
"What color are rooks?" she responded, urgently, leaning forward, fork in hand.
"Black," I answered without thinking. She sighed, shook her head.
"What?" I asked, her eyes turning to her salad hued in kelly, in willow, in viridian and moss. "What?" I asked again.
She looked at me at last, pausing in her piercing of leaves. "They're all colors," she said aggressively, looking down once more. I watched her for a moment, searching for ways I might recover from my eagerness. It seemed impossible. And yet, after the supposedly white stars supposedly rotated just a few more degrees, my tongue reached deep inside her still.
When she was fired for inclusion of illegal pigments, she was furious.
"They said they asked you!" she said, throwing her lab coat at my atomic spectroscope. "Why didn't you explain? I thought you understood!" The 28 centimeter green she had successfully synthesized was magnificent, it was true, but it also denatured the opsin of six out of nine rats.
I looked at her as best I could through my goggles. They hurt my nose but I knew if I removed them, she would leave.
"I don't know what to say," I said. "Can we discuss it tonight?"
"In the dark?" She tossed her head and snorted, then shook it slowly. She looked at the floor, and left in silence.
My results were ruined. As I ran the tests again that afternoon, I considered her spectrum. But it was no good, I realized, she was all absorption, all dark matter, an ideal state.
Interview With Nic Kelman
Q: Tell us about your artistic aesthetic.
A: My artistic aesthetic is both realist and experimental. I think art is primarily a refraction of one person's reality through the prism of their work. By doing this, artists allow others to experience their reality and also what aspects of reality are common between the artist and the person experiencing the art. So when I work, I try to represent reality as faithfully as possible as I see it, but I like to use methods that are somewhat fresh, that force the reader to sit up and take notice of the content because it is presented in an unfamiliar way. The hope is that the unfamiliar presentation unlocks new ways for the reader to experience specific emotions or ideas.
Q: Tell us how others describe your work versus how you see it? Do they get it?
A: For the most part, people do seem to get what I hope they will from my work. What’s fascinating is how many readers seem to think no one else will get it – which makes me think my work might often be addressing issues and emotions people don’t like to discuss but which are more universal then they might think.
Q: Tell us about one story/example of obstacles you have overcome or are currently struggling with.
A: The publishing market seems to become more and more difficult every year. Publishers seem to have adopted the Hollywood movie studio model of trying to produce one hit every season to keep the rest of their lists afloat...which means, of course, that every book has to have the potential to be a hit. When I look at what's being published widely today, it seems so stagnant and safe to me for the most part. I don't really see any large publishers taking risks...and this is, of course, at least in part because readers do not want to take risks these days. I guess I would love to see the general public demanding more from their literature than an easy, emotionally comfortable read with a satisfying ending...
Nic Kelman holds a BS from MIT and an MFA from Brown. His first novel, the international bestseller, "girls," has been published in nearly a dozen languages and his second book, "Video Game Art," was the first mainstream art history book on the topic. His short stories and/or photography have been published, amongst other places, in Elle, Glamour, BlackBook, The Village Voice, and The Kenyon Review, as well as various journals and anthologies. He is currently working on his second novel.