Stranger Shields

Stranger Shields resulted from the combination of two practices. The first, my daily habit of shooting photos in Italy, yielded a stockpile of images full of unique, interesting shapes. Because I presented the majority of these images on Instagram, they usually had square compositions, and were therefore organized in one way or another around the center.

I developed the second, creating vector drawings, in the Sharps and Flats series. While I experimented with the flexibility of the medium in those works, I wanted to push the technique further, especially its ability to generate variations in color and transparency. As a color theory teacher, I assigned my students problems based on Josef Albers’ Interaction of Color exercises which they executed as vector compositions. Their solutions inspired me, particularly when they invented numerous recolored versions of the same picture. For Stranger Shields, I followed their lead, generating multiple variations for each drawing. Most of the pictures here each show two such variations.

As I describe in Consequential Pictures, Part 1, the shapes derived from the photographs (and some observational drawing) began to free themselves from the boundaries of the composition. To put it another way: they broke the frame. To me, the resulting accumulations began to resemble shields, flattened 3-D forms tacked together to make protective 2-D barriers.

The Italian word straniero translates as “stranger,” but also means a foreigner, a person not from Italy. I am rarely addressed this way, because Americans are made very welcome in Italy. The ongoing influx of stranieri from across the Mediterranean presents a very difficult situation, in part because so many of those strangers come to Italy out of dire necessity. Italians are extremely generous and charitable, but any stranger here swims in a sea of complicated cultural norms. As I reassembled found objects for a new purpose, I imagined a mental process in which a straniero would synthesize things they found here into a protective object, something to help them as they decode their new world.

Click on each picture to see it in its entirety.