Saturday, February 23, 2013

The "Star" Series
Fine-Art Prints On Paper

Marie-Therese Wisniowski

This blogspot is not only devoted to ArtCloth and all things fabric (e.g. wearables) but also to limited edition prints on paper and artists' printmakers books. I have listed below for your convenience my contribution to this artistic genre.

Made to Order
Unique State (Partners in Print)
Wangi's Djiran:"Unique State" Prints
Veiled Curtains
A Letter to a Friend
Beyond the Fear of Freedom
Travelling Solander Project
Cry for the Wilderness
Federation on Hold - Call Waiting
Wish You Were Where?
The Four Seasons

Unlike Western languages, Chinese does not have an alphabet per se. Each character represents a whole concept. The shapes of these characters evolved over time, with the early forms being drawings of objects, animals or nature.

Like Chinese characters, Western symbols are concepts presented in a most condensed form. Iconography is the study of unpacking these symbols that are pictures of objects. The four “Star” fine art prints are an attempt to unpack the way in which we use the "Star" symbol to define concepts in our Western Society; that is, to translate pictorially the "agreed" definition of the ideograms.

The "Star" symbol had its beginnings within the infant days of human civilization, where birth, death, harvest, drought, rain and thunder, and other phenomena, required inscribed shapes that had the properties of mysticism and magic. It was important that only a few (e.g. priest, witch-doctor, Sharman etc.) could translate these shapes into meanings, thereby giving them power over their followers.

In the heavens lay the stars - far beyond the reach of the people. These objects were considered special, exclusive and yet because of their geographic location, transcending human existence.

It is not surprising that 53 national flags contain the star symbol. It is not only used in a geographic sense (e.g. the Southern Cross is in national flags of Australia, Solomon Islands, Papua New Guinea, New Zealand and Western Samoa) but it is also used to represent a society (e.g. the 50 stars in the "Stars & Stripes" represent a single star per State of the USA prior to the acquisition of Hawaii and Alaska).

The military aspect of the star symbol is defined if a five-pointed star is used since in Western ideography the five-pointed star appears on some of the crusader knight's coats of arms.

The Stars of the Judea-Christian Religions

Technique: Silkscreened employing oil based inks and foil on stonehenge.
Size: 56 cm wide x 76 cm high.
Limited edition prints on paper.

It is not surprising that when looking up into the night sky, with the twinkling of the stars, many felt and saw the creator. Hence, stars became symbols of religions.

Most monotheistic religions use the star symbol sparingly. The three main connected religions (connected by the belief system espoused in the old Testament) are Judaism, Christianity and Islam. All three connected religions use a pointed star symbol to represent their religion but that point to a different witness (e.g. The Star of David, The Star of Bethlehem and Star and Crescent).

The Christian religion accepted the idea that the Jews were chosen by the "One" God to witness God's rule over humanity. However, the Jews only accepted the possibility that Jesus may have been a historical figure. The birth of the Star of Bethlehem from the body of the Star of David symbolizes the divide between these two religions - a divide, which has generated so much history.

In this print I have tried to depict the birth of one religion (Christianity) arising from the bedrock of another religion (Judaism). The ascent of the Star of Bethlehem from the Star of David also represents the resurrection of Christ in a Jewish society. The width of the Star of Bethlehem is much shorter than its length generating a subliminal cross.

It is clear that these two stars are juxtaposed rather than complementing one another. The juxtaposition represents millenniums of conflict between these two similar rooted religions.

Fame and Fortune - A Star Quality

Technique: Silkscreened employing oil based inks on stonehenge.
Size: 56 cm wide x 76 cm high.
Limited edition prints on paper.

Exclusivity is important within any society. Andy Warhol's comment that - "Every person should have fifteen minutes of fame" - typifies the inner cravings of many people in the West. Wealth is also exclusive, since it is a relative measure; that is, you are only wealthy if there are people, who are poor. If a shooting star is seen, one can make a wish and so change one's fortune.

Stars are discrete heavenly entities that are untouchable and so there is an inner desire to reach out to them. Therefore, it is not surprising that the star icon is used to depict both fame and fortune.

This print has been designed with a minimalist number of icons, in order to heighten the viewer's awareness of "exclusivity". The star icons are appropriated from Hollywood’s “Boulevard Walk of Fame”. There are fifteen in total: three with Marilyn Monroe's image and a dozen without. This small number of stars indicates that while she has fame and fortune, she is not alone although the club is rather exclusive. The use of the Merecedes Benz three pointed star reaffirms that fortune (luck and wealth) is also desired.

The choice of Marilyn Monroe to depict "fame" is based on her public persona and the fact that she is known to five generations. Furthermore, her image and the splashes of yellow used, intends to give the viewer a flash-back to a much larger work on her and her fame that was created by Andy Warhol.

The choice of the Mercedes Benz icon represents fortune and exclusivity. The three-pointed star symbolized Daimler’s ambition of universal motorization – “on land, on water and in the air”.

Clearly only a few have fame without fortune (e.g. Mozart) and only a few have a fortune without fame (e.g. Frank Lowry - owner of the Westfield Shopping Centers). Most, whether they seek it or not, possess both, since one often generates the other (e.g. Paris Hilton).

The Scorpion - A Star Sign

Technique: Silkscreened employing oil based inks on stonehenge.
Size: 56 cm wide x 76 cm high.
Limited edition prints on paper.

Ancient human beings took their first steps in understanding the heavens when they designed a system for recognizing the stars. They grouped stars together as figures of myth. It was a means of making a confusion of twinkling lights into an ordered system.

The Zodiac is an excellent example of how these patterns of stars have become more than just figures of myth, they represent a pre-destined will, which determines the fate of us all.

The ancients learnt very quickly that the motion of the Sun affected their life and so the course of the Sun's path was mapped using the stars as a backdrop. Around 150 AD, the Alexandrian astronomer, Ptolemy collated forty-eight constellations in his book "Almagest" with the twelve zodiac constellations being part of this work. The sun completes one circuit of its path in an ellipse, which takes a year to traverse, passing through a specific Zodiac constellation each month. For example, the Sun crosses the constellation of Scorpius between October-November. Consequently, the twelve zodiac signs were amongst the first constellations to be devised. The term "Zodiac" derives from the Greek word "animal". Hence, all except Libra (which was a latter addition) depict living creatures.

Although this Scorpion was depicted in this form as late as 1490 (British Library Manuscript - Arundel 66) it does not accurately reflect the positions of the stars in the sky. Nevertheless, the outline of a Scorpion can be drawn around the stars. The bright star – Antares - marks the heart of the creature. The symbols on the left identify the twelve zodiac constellations, whilst the large symbol on the right reaffirms it is the Scorpion.

The red color used for the Scorpion depicts that people born under this star sign have special qualities; that is, they are supposed to be “sexy”. The constellations are ordered stars in a sea of chaos and so they represent our primitive connection with nature. Hence, I have stripped the "Scorpion" down to its essentials.

The stars here convey a pre-destined fate to a special group of people, those born under the sign of the Scorpion.

Texas: The Lone Star State

Technique: Silkscreened employing oil based inks on stonehenge.
Size: 56 cm wide x 76 cm high.
Limited edition prints on paper.

The flag of the United States has 50 stars, one for each of the original 50 States prior to the acquisition of Hawaii and Alaska, whereas the flag of Texas has a single star - The Lone Star. For more than 100 years, Texas was administered under the Spanish empire. It then formed part of Mexico from 1821 until the revolution and its independence in 1836. For almost 10 years, Texas was an independent State, joining the Union as the 28th State on 29th December 1845. The single star flag of Texas dates from its period of independence and has given the State its nickname of ‘The Lone Star State’.

The Lone Star has now moved beyond its own history; that is, it now bestows an uniqueness to a group of people. Texas is but one State of the USA, with five other States having a single star on their flags. Yet only Texas is - The Lone Star State - separate and distinctive from the rest, but unifying for a ‘special’ group of Americans.

Texas is a money state, abundant in oil and cattle. Its people are conservative producing such modern Presidents as L.B Johnson (1964) and both Bush’s. It prides itself on its “Cowboy” past. Texas is often symbolized as American conservatism and the “moneyed” State (both of these aspects normally being represented by the color “Blue” in the Western Culture).

In order to flesh out that the Lone Star represents more than just a government/military complex, other icons are used to demonstrate that the Star (the dominant icon) represents a particular American sub-culture.
(i) The lower section of the print has the hint of the American flag.
(ii) The background music sheet identifies the Texan style (from ZZ Top to Brooks and Dunn).
(iii) The Texas Longhorns are a unique species of cattle found in Texas and reminds us of their ‘Wild West’ culture.
(iv) The Bluebonnet in the top left hand corner identifies the State Flower of Texas.
(v) The logo of the Omni Hotel in the top right hand corner identifies a hotel chain which is unique to the Southern States and gives its location as a Confederate State of the USA.
(vi) The Mexican Freetail Bat (a beloved part of Austin’s local fauna) is also part of the quintessential Austin experience as it is home to the largest urban bat colony in the USA.
(vii) The University of Texas logo also incorporates the five-pointed Star as part of its design and locating its geographical position.

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