Recurring symbols in an artist’s work reveal his or her orientation to life and to the creative process in a deeply personal way.
Consciously or subconsciously, human beings are aware of the universal archetypes in mythology and of symbols used in religion and in daily life. But as a human being develops and grows, he/she begins to interpret them subjectively, forming an inner language. Artists are particularly prone to speaking through symbols, whether intentionally or not.
In my paintings, I began to notice some repetitions in my compositions. I had become fond of using certain design elements and began to wonder why. I did a bit of reading on the subject came to the conclusion that a secret, visual language fuels the creative process, which is particular to the individual doing the creating.
For my own amusement and, hopefully, to better understand my own attitudes and orientations, I made a list of the elements I use most often and their possible meanings.
Dots – By far this occurs most often and I think of these dots as being the particles of the universe; the stuff of our being.
Stars – If small, they symbolize the unknowable universe. If large, they seem to be celebratory.
Flowers – Delight in life.
Trees – Bearers of the necessary.
Cross – This has always meant nothing but death to me.
Sun – Beneficence
Moon – Brings to mind that wonderful feeling of “otherworldliness” I loved as a child
Birds – They serve as witnesses, observers.
Fish – Depth, particularly the subconscious.
Bats – A new one for me which I interpret as being a willingness to embrace the unknown or those different from ourselves.
Cats – Childhood, particularly the happy innocence of childhood.
Donkeys – Perplexity.
Rabbits – Curiosity, involvement in life and a yearning to experience the wonders of the world.
Skeleton – The underlying nature of mankind as a species and his involvement in the everyday doings of reality, as well as our discomfort with reality.
Angel – An elevation of the human spirit to its most empathetic.
Teeth – Voraciousness, frustration, anger
Circle – The circle in my work is the most complicated because I use it in several ways; to envelop or protect something, to show emptiness, to illustrate divinity, and sometimes it serves as a reminder of life cycles.
I do not know if it is useful for an artist to examine the elements of his/her work for symbolic meanings, but I found it interesting, revealing, and a bit disconcerting.