Monday, January 07, 2008

Art and Personal Imagery

Copyright Tattered Edge 2008

So let's talk about personal imagery in art. Personal imagery is the elements you use over and over, sometimes without really realizing it that are meaningful in some way to you. For example, my friend Linda Woods uses pears to symbolize herself. I've seen that image used time and again in her work and up until recently didn't know that that is how she portrays herself in her art. There was also an article in the latest issues of Somerset Studio that talked about using elements that have meaning to you and this got me thinking about what turns up in my work. Here are a few of my personal images and what their meaning is to me:

Buttons: If there is anything that symbolizes me, it's the humble button. I love buttons because in my mind, they are the one simple thing that all human beings have in common. Every human being throughout the history of man has worn one in one fashion or another. They are about connection for me and that is how I see myself-connected to the world and to everyone in it. I have a soft spot in my heart for buttons.

Houses: Houses are a refuge, a safe place to fall. The shape of them make me think of protection. Home is a foundation for life.

Rulers: This symbolizes my connection to my roots. Rulers are my beloved Gramps. He was a carpenter and tools were his life. If nothing else, he would always have a tape measure with him. Rulers also mean a measurement of time for me.

Stars: Stars are secrets. I always do my stars as cut outs with something behind them. It's like small revelations or insight.

Hand prints: This one I don't use quite so much, but when I do, it's a powerful way of saying "I am here" without using words. When I made a quilt block for the United In Memory quilt to honor Kenneth Charles Ledee, who was lost in 9/11, I did a white hand print across a heart to symbolize how the people we love leave their mark on our hearts long after they are gone. I also think of it as the invisible gesture of placing a hand comfort and healing on an aching heart. I see hands as a spiritual thing-hands show love, hands comfort, hands create, hands heal. The work of our hands is sacred.

Eggs: Eggs make me think of unlimited potential. You don't know what's inside the fragile shell, waiting to break free. Eggs are about possibility.

Numbers: You will often see a 3 (for my birth month, March) or a 22 (for my birthday) if I feel the piece I am working on needs a number. I also like the shape of 5's for not particular reason so occasionally they will pop up too.

Colours: Red comes up fairly often in my work. I'm an Aries and it's the colour I identify most powerfully with. Red is strength and passion, bold and fearless. Red is warmth and life-giving.

I think any of you could look at these things and it would mean something different to you. Your life experiences and memories dictate how you see things. Every aspect of your life is coloured by your experiences, including your art. I think this is what makes it so interesting. If we were all given the exact same materials and told to simply make something, anything, I guarantee no two pieces would be alike. Each person would have a different frame of reference for the materials they were given. This also explains why when two people look at a piece of art, one may be deeply moved while the other remains indifferent. It doesn't mean the art isn't good, it just means some people will be able to connect with it and some won't. I can't tell you how many times I have looked at something and thought "Well, that does nothing for me." and just as many times, I have seen something and my heart has thought "YES!" How you see art has more to do with YOU and less to do with the artist. Art is a very internal and personal experience.

Looking around my studio, I see all the things I've mentioned surrounding me. I have a collection of houses, a collection of hands, the number 22 represented in printer's blocks and dice. There are jars of buttons and nests with clutches of eggs. There is red everywhere I look and stars sprinkled here and there. It's easy to see that I gravitate towards certain things and not surprising that they find their way into my art.

It would be interesting to hear which elements you use in your work and why, so please feel free to comment and share. Perhaps when you really look at your own imagery, you will discover something you didn't know about yourself. That's what it's all about folks-uncovering what's special about you and then finding a way to share it with the world.

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