Course Description

This interdisciplinary fine arts course results in the development of a body of work around contemporary art topics. Research, concept development and studio practice will combine to broaden your skills and ideas. Stimulating assignments together with experimentation promote analysis and understanding of contemporary art ideas, world cultures and historical periods, and other areas of visual information. Studio production and the communication of concepts visually, verbally and in written form will be combined in this thought-provoking course

Monday, November 7, 2011

Iconic Imagery

When I think of Iconic imagery in art, the first thing that comes to mind is Salvador Dali's use of ants. The use of ants comes from a childhood experience of finding a dead bat being consumed by them. This became an icon symbolic of death and decay in his works. When I first learned the meaning behind these symbols I was fascinated by it because at the time I had previously experienced something similar. I have found that a personal icon of mine is dead birds. More specifically the image of a dead bird fetus. On many occasions during the summers of my adolescence, I have found these pitiful looking corpses ripped from their eggs and carried away (I assume by stray cats, as I have never seen them near shell remnants). Soon after these discoveries, I experienced devastatingly traumatic events. These include nervous breakdowns, an hallucinatory episode at the age of 14 (that I now attribute to the extensive stress that I was under) which caused me to doubt my sanity for a matter of weeks, the death of my brother, and a few years later, the death of my mother. The irony of it is that my mother often brought home injured animals and we cared for them together for months. When I was in high school I came home one day to find that she had brought home a baby bird that had fallen out of it's nest determined to get it well enough to fly away. In doing this we learned that it was much more complicated than keeping it in a box and feeding it the occasional worm. Every four hours we took turns mixing up batches of bird formula at specific temperatures and fought with the animal for another half an hour to eat it all. Eventually we set it loose in the living room and found that it was finally able to fly, but when we took it outside and tried to release it the bird refused to go away. It would fly a few feet and then hop back towards us on the ground. So naturally it became our pet. A few days before my mother was murdered I found three of the bird fetuses outside of our apartment. Sometime in the following weeks I found a small bird with an injured wing. I tried to save it as we had done before. I went shopping and found the right formula, got up up twice in the middle of the night every night to feed it, and I carried it around with me in a shoe box everywhere that I went. I must have done something wrong because one day I woke up and to my devastation, found that it was dead. As my thesis has been focused upon death for sometime now, it may seem odd that I have not included this imagery in my art work thus far. I have yet to include this personal icon in my artwork for a number of reasons. The first is that in doing a Memento Mori thesis, my main goal is to express this subject matter effectively while avoiding the typical cliches ripe with the macabre. The second reason is simply because the icon terrifies me. I get a terrible feeling in the pit of my stomach when ever I come across a dead bird. At the discovery of a dead bird fetus I am terrified for weeks that something horrible is soon to happen. I call family members constantly afraid of car accidents, muggings, heart attacks and all the countless possibilities of sudden death. Such is the intensity of my superstition that I avoid dead birds at all costs and I doubt I will ever take in an injured animal ever again. One day I may include this icon in my work because it is a very significant one for me. Perhaps one day this icon will be my version of Dali's ants. But certainly not until I find some way to utilize the image in a manner befitting it's significance to me (Sans cliche) and not until I am emotionally ready to examine the image critically without falling into the painful sadness that I feel even as I write this now.


  1. I think it is very interesting that you thought of personal icons right away when you wrote this. I think the rest of us were thinking about icons in a broader sense. I think recognizing self-symbology can really help us learn more about ourselves. I think there are things that happen to us that seem small and unimportant, but when looking back they play a large role in how we would represent our selves in the form of images or objects. There are certain memories that i have that i think definitely represent who i am or how i see myself and i think that putting icons to those memories or connecting icons with them would be really good for me to do. Because we are artists and we organize the world in a visual way, I think it make sense to do the same in our own lives.

  2. Silver-your post is both powerful and personal. I have to agree with Lian that visual icons make sense for artists. In fact we can almost not help ourselves from forming iconic ideas around material or visual realities. Do you have some sense of how you might channel this in your work as you move beyond your thesis exhibition?