Terry and His Blue Things / from the series The Pink and Blue Project (2005-08), 2005
JeongMee Yoon, Korean, born 1969
Image: 19 7/8 × 19 7/8 × 1 1/8 in. (50.5 × 50.5 × 2.9 cm)
Museum purchase funded by Photo Forum 2007
Habits of Mind
- OBSERVE DETAILS Observe details / time to think and reflect
- UNDERSTAND BIAS Understand assumption and various points of view / empathy
- SYNTHESIZE Analyze and synthesize relationships and information / compare and contrast / understand the micro and macro implications
Terry and His Blue Things/Seo Woo and Her Pink Things (Math)
Discussion through works of art encourage how to approach ambiguous and complex ideas, thoughts, and feelings. The MFAH offers a democratic space where students and teachers can develop, practice and articulate these habits of mind. Remember that the quality of the conversation is what is important, not finding the artist’s “answer.” Slow down and take the time to make careful observations. Talk about what you notice, and try to avoid jumping to conclusions and interpretations. Be sure to give enough time for silent looking and thinking.
- Apply mathematical processes to design a study and use graphical, numerical, and analytical techniques to communicate the results of the study. The student is expected to:
- Formulate a meaningful question, determine the data needed to answer the question, gather the appropriate data, analyze the data, and draw reasonable conclusions
- Communicate methods used, analyses conducted, and conclusions drawn for a data-analysis project through the use of one or more of the following: a written report, a visual display, an oral report, or a multi-media presentation.
Connecting to the Work of Art
Long fascinated with accumulations of objects, JeongMee Yoon’s series The Pink & Blue Project evolved from the simple act of making a portrait of her eight-year-old daughter, Seo Woo, who loved all things pink.
Upon arriving in New York in 2002, Yoon discovered that her daughter’s obsession was not unusual. Expanding her investigations into the phenomenon of pink, Yoon reached across cultures and ethnicities, posting notices in her apartment building in Queens and at her child’s school, and even stopping people on the street, in the subway, or at shopping centers in search of volunteer subjects. The Blue Project followed, and the artist noted that even though her fourteen-year-old son did not particularly favor the color blue over other colors, his clothes tended to be some shade of blue.
Whether this amassing of pink and blue objects has been dictated by popular culture, influenced by pervasive commercial marketing, or determined by product manufacturers, Yoon’s photographs leave little doubt about the global reach of the marketplace.
Artist’s statement on the project:
My current work, The Pink and Blue Projects are the topic of my thesis. This project explores the trends in cultural preferences and the differences in the tastes of children (and their parents) from diverse cultures, ethnic groups as well as gender socialization and identity. The work also raises other issues, such as the relationship between gender and consumerism, urbanization, the globalization of consumerism and the new capitalism.
The Pink and Blue Projects were initiated by my five-year-old daughter, who loves the color pink so much that she wanted to wear only pink clothes and play with only pink toys and objects. I discovered that my daughter’s case was not unusual. In the United States, South Korea and elsewhere, most young girls love pink clothing, accessories and toys. This phenomenon is widespread among children of various ethnic groups regardless of their cultural backgrounds. Perhaps it is the influence of pervasive commercial advertisements aimed at little girls and their parents, such as the universally popular Barbie and Hello Kitty merchandise that has developed into a modern trend. Girls train subconsciously and unconsciously to wear the color pink in order to look feminine.
Pink was once a color associated with masculinity, considered to be a watered down red and held the power associated with that color. In 1914, The Sunday Sentinel, an American newspaper, advised mothers to “use pink for the boy and blue for the girl, if you are a follower of convention.” The change to pink for girls and blue for boys happened in America and elsewhere only after World War II. As modern society entered twentieth century political correctness, the concept of gender equality emerged and, as a result, reversed the perspective on the colors associated with each gender as well as the superficial connections that attached to them. Today, with the effects of advertising on consumer preferences, these color customs are a worldwide standard.
The saccharine, confectionary pink objects that fill my images of little girls and their accessories reveal a pervasive and culturally manipulated expression of femininity and a desire to be seen. To make these images, I arrange and display the cotton - candy colored belongings of several children in their rooms. When I began producing the pink images, I became aware of the fact that many boys have a lot of blue possessions. Customers are directed to buy blue items for boys and pink for girls. In the case of my eleven-year-old son, even though he does not seem to particularly like the color blue over other colors, whenever we shop for his clothes, the clothes he chooses are from the many-hued blue selection. The clothes and toy sections for children are already divided into pinks for girls and blues for boys. Their accessories and toys follow suit.
The differences between girls’ objects and boys’ objects are also divided and affect their thinking and behavioral patterns. Many toys and books for girls are pink, purple, or red, and are related to make up, dress up, cooking, and domestic affairs. However, most toys and books for boys are made from the different shades of blue and are related to robots, industry, science, dinosaurs, etc. This is a phenomenon as intense as the Barbie craze. Manufacturers produce anthropomorphic ponies that have the characteristics of young girls. They have barrettes, combs and accessories, and the girls adorn and make up the ponies. These kinds of divided guidelines for the two genders deeply affect children’s gender group identification and social learning.
As girls grow older, their taste for pink changes. Until about 2nd grade, they are very obsessed with the color pink, but around 3rd or 4th grade, they do not obsess with pink as much anymore. Usually, their tastes change to purple. Later, there is another shift. However, the original association with the color code often remains
Remember that the quality of the conversation is what is important, not finding the artist’s “answer.” Slow down and take the time to make careful observations. Talk about what you notice, and try to avoid jumping to conclusions and interpretations. Be sure to give enough time for silent looking and thinking, and be careful about making assumptions.
- How would you describe the colors in each work? How would the work change with greater color variety?
- How would the impact of the images change if the artist had used a different composition?
- How does the monochromatic nature of each image contribute to the interpretation of each work?
- How does the color choice impact the work? How would the work change if the colors were yellow and green instead of pink and blue?
Connecting to the Classroom
Taking the time to think about these two pieces exemplifies everything that is metacognition. By taking a step back and looking down from a macro level, students can transition to this way of thinking with a variety of ideas.
The realization of programmed biases uncovered from these images is powerful. In a vulnerable space such as a high school math classroom, students often pre-label themselves for success before the first lesson is taught. Shedding a tiny light on the reality might not change a student’s mindset completely, but the seed of bias we are implanted with as small children can never be unseen.
Subject Matter Connection
- Compare and contrast observations of Seo Woo and Her Pink Things and Terry and His Blue Things individually.
- Click here to read about The Pink and Blue Project, a study of gender and color over 14 years.
- Use mathematical processes to design a study of gender-based color preferences. Formulate several meaningful questions regarding color perceptions and preferences (i.e.“what color do you gravitate toward on a color wheel?” or “what color appears expensive/inexpensive?”) to ask male and female participants.
- Gather data and analyze data through the use of various graphs, including line graphs, bar graphs, circle graphs, histograms, scatterplots, dot plots, stem-and-leaf plots, and box and whisker plots.
- Draw conclusions from the data.
- Communicate results via a written report, visual display, oral report, or multi-media presentation.
Use this lesson plan with Seo Woo and Her Pink Things.
Resources Available to Order
The Learning Through Art program is endowed by Melvyn and Cyvia Wolff.
The Learning Through Art curriculum website is made possible in part by a grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services.
All Learning and Interpretation programs at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, receive endowment income from funds provided by the Louise Jarrett Moran Bequest; Caroline Wiess Law; the William Randolph Hearst Foundation; The National Endowment for the Humanities; the Fondren Foundation; BMC Software, Inc.; the Wallace Foundation; the Neal Myers and Ken Black Children’s Art Fund; the Favrot Fund; and Gifts in honor of Beth Schneider