What Color Is That Statue in the Window?

In his podcast, Akimbo, Seth Godin teaches us how to adopt a posture of possibility, change the culture, and choose to make a difference. Here are my takeaways from the episode.

Many of us believe that the color of the classic sculpture is often in white. When we see a painted sculpture from the ancient time, we think they look wrong in the sense that they don’t match what we think they should look like. Worse yet, they may even look somewhat ugly and amateurish.

Our cultures have a lot to do with what we consider to be an acceptable form of something. That something could be sculpture, art painting, food choice, and many other things.

Many people regard The Mona Lisa as the most famous painting in the world, but it was generally unheard of as recently as one hundred fifty years ago. The painting certainly has a color background behind it, and it has received a great deal of media exposure over other paintings. Over time, we think The Mona Lisa was the most famous painting when we kept hearing about it repeatedly.

Think about something as ordinary as a tomato. The tomato was not served on a pizza in Italy until the year eighteen eighty when it first found by Europeans in the 1500s. Tomatoes were first thought to be poisonous by the northern Europeans. Many had grown up believing tomatoes were not suitable for as a food item, but it was simply not the case.

Even after the tomato was demonstrated to be delicious and completely safe, generations after generations of traditionalists refused to put tomatoes on their pasta until something changed their minds. The same bias may be true when we look at a color marble statue. Having grown up believing that the regular kind of statute is white, the color work looks weird, funny, and wrong.

According to the art experts, art historians and scholars, the color statue was what it used to look like. We need to look right at it and see it the way the Greeks and the Romans saw it — only then do we have a chance to develop the empathy to understand. To the ancient Greeks and Romans, the color statue was the regular kind.

When we look at art historically, we should celebrate the fact that when it was built, it looked like a certain way. Our culture has placed a great deal of influence, both positive and negative throughout the years, on how we perceive things should be. Just because something of a regular kind is the way we grew up with it, it does not mean we cannot have an open mind about another variant.

Seth concluded the podcast with, “The next time we take a look at a piece of culture, our piece of culture, and decide that we can’t challenge the accepted regular kind. Perhaps it’s worth taking a moment to consider why we think the new thing isn’t the right thing.”