I think that art that includes text these days is being talked about a little bit…I mean…some people judge text to be a bit of a ‘device’. It’s important that script be used like salt and pepper and that it engages the compositional elements appropriately…connecting with the images contained within the picture plane…but also leading the viewer to an engaging experience of a broader concept/issue/exploration. Hmmm…and as I type this, I’m thinking, “Really, this is balogne! There are NO RULES…so why are you writing this?” What I’m saying, I think, is that this is how I use text with images. It certainly is not how all artists use text.
When I met William MacDonnell, I first engaged (REALLY noticed) work including text. Prior to that, I had seen text used by a variety of local artists and of course, several pop masters including Andy Warhol and Roy Lichtenstein. I was most moved by Frida Kahlo’s journal pages as illustrated in the book, The Diary of Frida Kahlo: An Intimate Self Portrait. I first noticed in her sketches that words and images created links for one another and I thought that it was a very powerful thing to include both. When I went to ACAD, I first included text in my Library Club series and knew then that the gilded script transcribed from my high school year books enriched and activated the surface.
I remember the day when I began to write on walls. My artist-friend, Bobby, shared an on-line project posted by a conceptual/false-conceptual artist regarding writing/attaching a set of affirmations on bathroom walls. I had only, days before, lost my fourteen year old Laurie-dog and so was in need of some powerful self-talk in order to transcend the huge loss and so I dug out the affirmations that I had printed off months prior and began to write on my wall, making additional affirmations as I worked.
My studio space includes the written words of many friends and family members. I am surrounded by their wisdom, food for thought, song lyrics and I’m continually supported by these.
Today, when I incorporate text, I do so with Covenant in mind. I seek out discarded bibles from garage sales and second hand shops, feeling as though the words have need of harvesting. I also find it interesting that because scripture arrives in an unexpected place (in art) sometimes the viewers can be found engaged in the words. If I do not apply the pages directly to the piece, I write them out and they always inform the subject in the work.
I am also fond of embedding poetry, information and reactions, depending on what I’m thinking about at the time. Recently, I’ve parted with words from three beautiful leather bound partner journals, I’ve cut up all of these into two inch squares that are being embedded into various pieces in progress. Ultimately, I will be using them for a Bride-Groom collage that has been in the planning phase for some time! You can see two squares in a recent LIVE ART battles composition.
As an example…this piece is titled Psalms and contains the entire book of Psalms as its underpinning. The pelican, historically, represented Eucharist (the Body of Christ). J. Lee Jagers writes about it eloquently here.
“The symbolism of the mother pelican feeding her little baby pelicans is rooted in an ancient legend which preceded Christianity. The legend was that in time of famine, the mother pelican wounded herself, striking her breast with the beak to feed her young with her blood to prevent starvation. Another version of the legend was that the mother fed her dying young with her blood to revive them from death, but in turn lost her own life. — Fr. William P. Saunders in a column from the Arlington Catholic Herald (2003).”
This meaning, interestingly enough, emerged after exploring the concept of my own father, saving a single pelican that had lost its wing and was likely going to lose its life once winter hit. I felt at the time, and still do, that my father exemplified the concept of ‘covenant’.
Sometimes the text that I incorporate into my pieces is more or less obvious to the viewer. Presently, I am embedding journal pages and other sources, as well as biblical texts. Every day I learn more about my enthusiasm for collage and there are always experiments at work. Thanks for asking about the text, John…a good question!