Engaging Minds, Transforming Lives

King Creativity at Southwestern

Impact of the Signs and Symbols of Languages

by Allison Young
Major: Art with Emphasis in Sculpture

My creative work involves the invention of three-dimensional forms that take on the style and presence of a written language. By using various formats associated with writing from different cultures and creating forms that appear to be symbols in a three-dimensional medium, I am exploring the impact of signs and symbols upon the viewer. The emphasis will be upon the viewer trying to decipher this apparent message, and as they explore the form the three-dimensional qualities of texture, spacing, scale and form become part of the exploration of meaning for the viewer.

My interest in visual language leads me to the subject of semiotics and the theory that signs and symbols trigger certain responses. In his book, Basics of Semiotics, John Deely states that it is “a perspective or point of view” which comes from an certain recognition of form or method. Semiotic arises from the attempt to present a communicative modality of form to the viewer. This idea translates into my work through the question of how one perceives a word. An individual interacts with a work of art on a very personal level. One looks to their personal experiences as a way to relate to the image or form. Just as individuals observe and appreciate a work of art in different ways I am asking viewers to look at my language and project their personal meanings into it. I am not specifically trying to create a language. I am placing the responsibility on the viewer to make his or her own language based on how these shapes recall past experiences. My images are presented in paragraph form, encouraging the viewer to read them which is possible only if he or she can relate to the forms on a personal level.

I was extremely pleased with the plaster organic forms I had made in previous years and I wanted to continue making large scale sensuous pieces. However 4 foot tall plaster pieces, with 1 to 3 inch thick walls, becomes a bit cumbersome. I turned to the idea of creating indoor/outdoor sculptures but I needed to find a new material that would be light-weight, sturdy, weather resistant and also easy to work with. I decided fiberglass was exactly what I was looking for. I should point out that there are many different types of fiberglass therefore I had to find the right combination that would suit my needs. For example, Roving and Matte fiberglass are made of densely packed small strips of fiber which allow for support while a triaxl blend fiber-glass is woven and can be stretched over curving forms.

I solved my question of material and moved on to actual production. I created nine small scale sculptures reminiscent of my sensuous style seen previously. Together these sculptures transform into symbols that work together to create a flowing sentence. Using molds I duplicated the symbols many times and cast them in a plastic material. When presented they will be placed on shelves and will cover a 4x8 foot wall which will then appear like an entire page spanning from floor to ceiling. These symbols will be arranged in a matrix of combinations and orders therefore resembling the words which make up a visual paragraph. I am exploring the impact of individual words by taking a few of the small sculptures and reproducing them at a larger scale in fiberglass. Using a wire framework over wood, these sculptures will have an internal support and will be at least four to six feet in height. The large scale of these sculptures will have a noticeably different affect on the viewer than their grouped counterparts and will therefore show the importance of singular symbols or words. Both the small scale paragraph and singular large scale sculptures will have a variety patinaed metal surfaces for texture and color.

Many times one will look at the page of a book as a group of ideas, overlooking the individual words, sentences, and punctuation marks which convey and create those ideas. Through my work I am removing any premeditated meanings or concepts by creating a language of unfamiliar symbols. The viewer translates the wall of foreign symbols into the more recognizable idea of a visual paragraph. The large sculptures then force the viewer to take a closer look at the individual symbols that form the visual paragraph. I present the viewer with stimulus of form in an attempt to evoke an emotional response derivative of one’s own personal experience in life and their ascribed relationship with the forms.