Words & Pictures
Text and images combine to form new meanings
It’s in our nature, as humans, to make connections. We connect words to make sentences and sentences to make stories. If you give us three random facts, we’ll combine them to make a new truth. Show us two pictures next to each other, and we’ll try to find a way to relate them. And we’ll string those images together to make a narrative, to give them meaning. Many artists use images and words in concert to create a twist in the connections viewers make, fortifying, deepening, and splintering them to create a world of new possibilities.
Stitchings is part of Peg Grady‘s Dear Diary series, “where I illustrate the day’s event in stitching. I love using text in my artwork as it slows people down and draws them in to see the piece. Embroidered samplers were used to teach girls how to read and write. Bringing them into the contemporary world makes me happy.” The stitchings are beautifully drawn, simple yet evocative, and the words form small poems, full of humor and reflection. You think about the time it took her to stitch each message, and you realize the importance of the image and of the moment that it captures.
Peter Ketchum describes himself as a “thief.” He gathers found photographs and penny postcards and combines words and images to make something new and thought-provoking, to give somebody’s history and memories a strange new life. “Some of the postcards were simply sent from one side of a small town to another. Some went around the globe. But all of them were short bursts of communication between friends, lovers, siblings, family members, and co-workers. The postcards sent messages of inquiry, trivial news, love, flirtation, double-entendres, and satire– often at the expense of spouses, in-laws, and people of different ethnic groups: why, for example, a stereotypical image of a black man for a New Years greeting? In these very real messages are reflected societal attitudes about
gender, race, and social class. Many of these attitudes, sadly, have survived into our electronic age. It is this idea that interests me most. The longevity of intolerance.”
The image in B (Herman) was from a found French real photo postcard, and Ketchum added a background of words that reflect and shape the way we respond to the image. “I asked at a dinner party for words from the men that were identified with women and I asked the women for words identified with men. The feminine words are on the right and the masculine words on the left.”
David Dumo describes his work as both personal and theatrical. He combines images in unexpected settings to form pictures that are startling and subtly humorous. In his mixed media assemblages he combines found objects, photos and scraps of text to form boxes that seem like a treasure with hidden layers of meaning.
“As for my mixed media assemblage work, ?the use of words is often important. They echo my contextual inspiration. Often an image of an old sign, fragments of text from publications, or a whole printed found container (i.e. antique metal Humo cigar box) help process my mental sketches — motivating the assembly of found or manipulated materials into my final composition.”
Anne Lambert‘s art is varied and unusual, ranging from paintings and drawings to sculptures made from wood, wire and found objects such as suitcases and gardening tools. In a series entitled “Memory Book,” she presents a succession of haunting images; old photographs combined to create a new and intriguing story. “Two was inspired by an old photograph of a brother and sister I found among other unknown ancestors. Set in front of a lesson page of numbers and numerals the word ‘Two’ became meaningful as they face the world together.”
Francesca Azzara works in encaustic paint, a medium that predates oil painting. This challenging yet forgiving medium allows the artist to layer, collage, scrape away and etch into the surface, and is perfect for works that combine images and text in a provocative manner. “Another White Dress is from my Weather Dressing series, which found its inspiration from an early 1900s grade school science book; specifically from a chapter on the ‘life of a raindrop,’ and its metamorphosis. In ancient Chinese art, water represented woman and life. The text is visually integrated into the work and ambiguous in meaning. Female imagery is paired with snippets of narrative from the book, to create an open story for the viewer’s interpretation.”
Megan Heuse produced a series of pictures with text and diagrams appropriated from Basic Instrumentation, Industrial Measurement by Patrick J. O’Higgins. These cold, technical elements are combined with ghostly images of people and splashes of color that feel messily human and emotional, to form a puzzle we want to solve. “As far as the text included, the meaning is incredibly relevant and insightful. Using finite scientific definitions or terminology, it often eludes to double-meanings when framed within a socio-political context. However, the textual information included is not fully visible or available for the audience to easily comprehend and interpret. The work demands thought from people in order to determine the connections.”
Glenda Richardson‘s fabric collages and art quilts are “a mélange of pieced fabrics, found objects, buttons, beads, handmade papers, jewelry, lace, and appliqué. They incorporate materials that have been donated by relatives, friends, and by the community of women and men with whom I have worked. The inclusion of these items in my work has imbued it with a depth that would not otherwise be present. My work tells a personal story whose themes have universal meaning. These themes include physical and spiritual healing, memorializing loved ones, rites of passage as they relate to women, and the spiritual aspects of love and sensuality.” Guaranteed Angel is a memory quilt that combines a sweetly melancholy photograph of a young girl with a sticker that reads “guaranteed angel” and layers of fabric and lace. You wonder about the life of the child and the meaning of the words, which seem both hopeful and doomed.
Jason Houchen‘s art is described “as being full of life and death, spirits and spirituality, history, as well as memories, his work provokes more questions than answers.” Fragile, a mixed media work on bookbinding, combines the fragmented stenciled word “fragile,” with shapes and colors that are vivid and bright. In combination, the image seems to walk the line between triumph and explosion, calling into question the meaning of the word and the nature of an emotional state.
Anukriti Sud Hittle is intrigued by the interplay of human memory and land form. Collage allows her to capture these perceptions of landscape. “Each piece provides fragments of detail that get embedded in human memory as the eye skims over the landscape. When viewed as a whole, the eye tries to make sense of these different images and comes up with what it wants to see/what it thinks it remembers from landscapes past.” Her series “Cloud Journal” explores clouded skies at various times of year and hours of the day. Many of the pictures include text, scraps of printed text, words scrawled on maps or junk mail to form a dreamlike memory of a message in the clouds. “I made these pages for my cloud journal. Where I live, the clouds are spectacular. I watched them intently as I walked to work and back again in the evening. During this time I watched the skies very carefully. The clouds are real; the land imaginary. I liked the paradox of giving weight to airy clouds and constructing solid land from imagination. Events and feelings from those days are captured in my text…to make this a multi-dimensional journal, one that combines the visual image and the written word.”
Whether found or deliberately chosen, words in images cause us to dig deeper for meaning and narrative. Picture and text play upon one another to provoke unexpected responses, and force us to question our assumptions about each. They create a continually unfolding story in our minds that takes on a life of its own.