Chromatherapy (1978-2007)

The first page of my journal has this quote from Charles Dickens.

"It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of light, it was the season of darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to heaven, we were all going the other way - In short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only."

For me, the thoughts in much of my adult life has been a reoccurring theme of how history or past events should be constantly considered in making informed decisions that are relevant to the present. I would like to connect this thought in this statement with how my current research, Chromatherapy, has come to be.

Much like how Dickens' prose from the 19th century is amazingly relevant today, there are times when an artist might revisit his own work from the past, however never completed, and find important issues to rejoin and flesh out in the present. Chromatherapy has been such a project.

In 1978, while living in Los Angeles, I found a small publication published in 1975 by Mary Anderson titled, Color Healing: Chromotherapy and How it Works. This began my interest and research into the practice of "colour healing". Mary Anderson in her introduction goes on to state, "Psychologically we are all affected by colour. This book explains a revolutionary new method of healing by which the rays of coloured lamps are applied to diseased organs of the body, with amazingly beneficial results."

So for over a quarter of a century, I have gathered research on the "medical" practice of colored light healing. Influential in making some of my images has been the 1878 text of Edwin D. Babbitt, The Principles of Light and Color: The Classic Study of the Healing Power of Color. In the early 20th century, The Spectro-Chrome ideas of Dinshah P. Ghadiali are illustrated in his book Let There be Light . This information along with the writings of Faber Birren (Color Perception in Art), have fueled the initial images in this work.

I am interested in the idea of color as a growth and healing tool. I am a storyteller and photography is a wonderful story telling tool. I think it is a time for me to embrace magic and pagan rituals. I need to seek alternatives. The idea of colored light as a non-evasive medical treatment, light over the body rather than the cutting into the body or the ingestion of drugs within the body might be a dream rather than reality, but perhaps some dreams should be reality. I love the light tool that Dr. Beverly Crusher uses in Star Trek to heal broken bones and any ailment. I am interested in making metaphorical colored art photographs that creatively haunt the viewer.

In the Middle Ages, the great cathedrals of Europe had stained glass windows which were used in healing. When the ill were placed in the light from the windows many miraculous cures were recorded. The priests, of course, credited the Saints portrayed in the glass and not the colored light reaching the patients. Johannes Itten, one of the first color theorists stated, "Color is life, for a world without color seems dead. As a flame produces light, light produces color. As intonation lends color to the spoken word, color lends spiritually realized sound to a form."

All light is visible radiant energy and travels through space in forms of waves. It travels 186,000 miles per second in wave-lengths that vary in size and energy. As it travels, it also vibrates. Below thirty-two impulses per second vibration, this radiant energy is inaudible as well as invisible. The wave lengths of the electromagnetic spectrum range from waves less than a thousandth of a millimeter in length to some that are hundreds of miles long. Colors, light, and heat are thus related to wave-lengths. These waves vary in length and the individual variations are the basis of each color. When the wave-lengths are ultra short they become invisible, but color may still exist, even if it is not seen by the human eye. Unlike sound waves and ocean waves, light waves seem to need no material medium. They can travel through empty space.

The current research for my docu-drama medical like images have taken me to discussions with botanists (pulsating colored lights on plants to increase photosynthesis) and biologists (Sliding Filament Theory of muscle structure) at my university as well as the readings in Cosmology: The Science of the Universe, by Edward Harrison.

I am intrigued with color healing and growth through colored rays because of the existence of duality between colored lights used in this ancient medical practice and the phenomena of light as the essence of photography and color as a translator of that essence in my life-long work as an artist. I am not a color healer, I am a color imagist. I am interested in making images that theatrically depict colored light healing and stated in frank terms, I am interested in creating cinematic narrative images that are medical like depictions of Chromotherapy. I have made a career of working in the directorial mode of artistic photography. With this work, I hope to juxtapose social, sexual, and political, issues along with new theories in anatomy, astronomy, biology, physics, and medicine, within the overlay of color and light as healing and growth mechanism, and color and light as photographic tool.

Patrick Nagatani - Chromatherapy, by Marcella Hackbart

Hell is the color of red and fleshtones. Heaven is colored in blues and nurse-uniform white. Greens suggest the land of the living in which anatomy, biology, physics and medicine are the theatres of survival.

Red, blue and green; these are the primaries in the light system of the sun, photography, and television. All the other millions of manifestations of color are made of varied intensities and mixtures of these primaries. Color, divinely mutant and relative, sometimes slippery to describe in words, has nonetheless been domesticated for its vast symbolic associations. From boys and girls toys to pie charts, feng shui decorating and many cultural rituals, now in NagataniĆ­s imagery color promotes the salvation of the flesh from afflictions.

This body of work has spanned three decades, beginning with the first image in 1978. In Chromatherapy as in many of Nagatani's major bodies of work, he draws upon his early affiliation with set design colorists, as well as on his own preoccupation with the symbolism and emotional power of color. Nagatani employs color as a key element in the structure of his staged photographs, making it the intersection in which body, consciousness and technologies produce a generative, creative state of existence.

Chromatherapy is a modern practice of healing that extends back in time to ancient Egypt and China, and into the future - as Nagatani himself comments - by the light tool used by Dr. Beverly Crusher in Star Trek to almost instantaneously heal wounds and illness. Chromatherapy is magic, or fiction that becomes fact through Believing, or a peaceable form of remedy that we nonetheless disregard because it is unclear how it works at the cellular level. Red promotes energy and is thought to improve circulation and blood cell production. Blue promotes communication and knowledge, and it eliminates toxins. Because it is located in the middle of the color spectrum, green is associated with balance, and is used to heal ulcers and bacterial infections. Within this practice, seeing and experiencing color becomes vital.

The land of the living needs power and symbolism to make meaning out of those experiences in which hell and heaven seem to exist in the same act, the same place, the same brink of aliveness. In Nagatani's work color seeks the living to rescue them, and they in turn yearn for the light, the illumination, the heat, and reach for its embrace.