Text and Image: How My Art Comes Together

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.

Tragedy on a Country Road – 1994 by William MacDonnell Photo Credit: Legion Magazine

Patricia Kirton…one of three panels from the Library Club Series. Painted by Kathleen Moors

An entire wall in my main bathroom…people are confronted with affirmations whenever they sit down. :0)

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.

Similar Affirmations: Another Artist’s Efforts With the Project

And another blogger’s efforts…

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!

5 thoughts on “Text and Image: How My Art Comes Together

  1. Thank you for partially answering my question – ‘partially’ because I’m still interested in the text in your header and in the two pieces that prompted my question in the first place – the Angel painting and ummm, forgotten right now. This post is a fascinating look into your creative process and I would really be interested in having you as a guest post for my ‘The 100’ series. I could simply re blog this post or, if you would like to do this at all, you could tweak this post or create a new one. Let me know what you think. You could email me with your ideas….

    • Thanks for exploring my work, John…for thinking about it. For the Isaiah: The Plight of the Bluefin Tuna piece, I incorporated three bits of text…part of an article from the National Geographeic April 2007 It is an amazing article that blew me away! http://ngm.nationalgeographic.com/2007/04/global-fisheries-crisis/montaigne-text

      Next, I included the ‘fifth day’ from Genesis.

      Chapter 1 20Then God said, “Let the waters swarm with fish and other life. Let the skies be filled with birds of every kind.” 21So God created great sea creatures and every living thing that scurries and swarms in the water, and every sort of bird—each producing offspring of the same kind. And God saw that it was good. 22Then God blessed them, saying, “Be fruitful and multiply. Let the fish fill the seas, and let the birds multiply on the earth.”

      23And evening passed and morning came, marking the fifth day.

      And finally, I wrote out Isaiah 54: 5-14

      5 For your Creator will be your husband;
      the Lord of Heaven’s Armies is his name!
      He is your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel,
      the God of all the earth.
      6 For the Lord has called you back from your grief—
      as though you were a young wife abandoned by her husband,”
      says your God.
      7 “For a brief moment I abandoned you,
      but with great compassion I will take you back.
      8 In a burst of anger I turned my face away for a little while.
      But with everlasting love I will have compassion on you,”
      says the Lord, your Redeemer.

      9 “Just as I swore in the time of Noah
      that I would never again let a flood cover the earth,
      so now I swear
      that I will never again be angry and punish you.
      10 For the mountains may move
      and the hills disappear,
      but even then my faithful love for you will remain.
      My covenant of blessing will never be broken,”
      says the Lord, who has mercy on you.

      11 “O storm-battered city,
      troubled and desolate!
      I will rebuild you with precious jewels
      and make your foundations from lapis lazuli.
      12 I will make your towers of sparkling rubies,
      your gates of shining gems,
      and your walls of precious stones.
      13 I will teach all your children,
      and they will enjoy great peace.
      14 You will be secure under a government that is just and fair.
      Your enemies will stay far away.
      You will live in peace,
      and terror will not come near.

      Within the angel piece completed at the Gorilla House LIVE ART battles, I incorporated pattern pieces from my mother’s sewing years as a foundation. I also used two squares of partner journal pages harvested a few short weeks ago. I decided I couldn’t heal from a lost relationship until I cut up the words we shared with one another one another. These pieces will appear in my art from now on, in various formats. These were three leather bound journals…completely filled to the brim with sentiment. http://shepaintsred.wordpress.com/2012/07/30/parting-words/

      Every piece of art is like this for me….a thoughtful process. In terms of being a guest on your blog, I would consider that a huge compliment. I’m uncertain how that happens and would like to give it some thought. I’m glad that you read the post about text and image as I was really trying to clarify this thing that I do. Kathleen

  2. Oh yes…I remember also, where the angel was concerned…within the last two minutes of the official painting time, I wrote the words, in gold…”Your love was enough.” hmmmm…

  3. Thank you so much Kathleen for your detailed description answering my question – didn’t mean to give you all of that extra work but I found it very interesting, especially the exorcism of words from your journals. As far as how to go about being a guest post – as I said before I could simply re blog your post on text in your art, OR you could create another post for the occasion, tweaking the one already done with whatever changes you want. Then you would email it to me as an attachment. You can also email me with further questions. Enjoy your day – John

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