The Color Yellow: Rothko No.6 Yellow

7:00 AM

Mark Rothko, No.6 Yellow, 1954 
The Color Yellow

For years I grieved privately, only experiencing bursts of pain accompanied by the death of loved ones. Then I entered high school and sitting in my freshmen year ethics class I lost my breath as my principal described a day for her disabled son I closed my eyes and saw only Trevor. 

Throughout elementary school I grew accustomed to being the girl with the dead brother and as I entered Barstow I saw an opportunity to leave that identity behind. All my attempts to suppress him surfaced on that day freshmen year. 

I felt the weight of Trevor’s death at 16, sitting in my Algebra II class grief engulfed me. PTSD they told me. I laughed. I had not been to war. I didn’t know true trauma...people dying was normal for me...expected from me. 

Rothko’s Yellow No. 6 captures the standstill I felt. The anxiety controlled me as I pulsed against the white and blue. I struggled to find where I belong and felt immense pressure to be that happy, carefree, teenager I thought I was supposed to be. I wished desperately for simplicity, to feel nothing instead of too much. 

Rothko feared being engulfed by the black, and I feared destroying the yellow. In high school you can’t intermingle dead brothers within conversations about so and so’s new hairstyle. You run the risk of being labeled the depressed girl, the over-emotional girl, the cold girl and whatever else people come up with. You can never win, someone will always have an impression of you that you do not see in yourself. Rothko built walls between his blues and yellows and I have done the same. 

He separates his colors to remind us to stay impersonal at times, to distance ourselves from our past and our future and simply exist. I carry Trevor with my everyday, but I refrain from feeling him, because in the mixing of colors comes couscous. An uncontrollable spiral that can surface at any moment. Rothko recognizes that compartmentalizing is the key to sanity. I keep Trevor alive by keeping him between the yellow hues, he’s safe there. I’m safe there. 

With the yellow engulfing me as I close my eyes, we are back on the carpet, watching Tarzan, just me and him. Young and blissfully unaware of our future.

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