READING ART- UNDERSTANDING ICONOGRAPHY The four basic roles of the artist is to record the world or keep a historical record, to give form to ideas and concepts, as well as feelings and philosophies, to reveal the hidden or universal truths and to show the world in a new way. History can be recorded visually. Back when much of the ancient art was created , it was believed that most of the population was illiterate. So any form of art could serve as a record of that time and the population better understood the visual symbolism better than words.

Emotions like love and anger are familiar to every single living soul. The problem is neither emotion can be seen. Art can make these and other emotions visible. This is giving form to a feeling and the second role of the artist. The third role of the artist is to reveal the hidden or universal truths. This role can be best examined through the reviewing of religious works with all its symbolism. Finally, the fourth role of the artist is to help us all see the world in a new and innovative way. Examples would be in architecture.

The ultimate role of the artist is to communicate with its audience, which when you think about it, is all you can ask for. The first piece of art that I reviewed was Faith Ringgold’s God Bless American, from 1964, the year I was born. I felt it appropriate since we are just upon another Independence Day holiday here in America. The piece is symbolic in how the flag has been tipped to its side and its stripes have formed what appears to be a jail or prison. My initial question was whether the female was inside looking out or outside looking in.

She appears to be unhappy and looks aged. Wrinkles line her forehead and the shock of gray hair makes her look worn out. Maybe this is the face the artist sees as she looks out of her jail cell. Who knows, and that is exactly the way art is to make you feel. In Andy Warhol’s Race Riot, it looks like only the police are rioting. It is apparent that this shot depicts a time in history. A time that many would be sad to say they were a part. I believe the red, white, and blue panels may be a sly dig at the establishment by Mr.

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Warhol. I mean, red, white, and blue are supposed to be the colors of freedom and democracy in the United States and that is exactly what is NOT depicted here. As an African American, I found both pieces to be interesting and very disturbing at the same time. The symbolism of Faith Ringgold’s piece was not lost on me and the sheer power of Warhol’s piece stirred up feelings of anger all these years later. Art truly does move me, of that, I am certain. I just hope to grow and learn more as we go.


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