Setting out to create new meaning out of existing images turned out to be surprisingly more difficult than I expected. This goes beyond learning how to use GIMP, software of a variety that I had never used before that certainly presented its own challenges. No, it had more to do with figuring out what I wanted to say and how to get my message across.
In deciding what I wanted to ultimately say with my work I realized quickly that to me “developing meaning” meant making a serious and often dark statement. I originally wanted to depict the effects of the melting ice caps on polar bears but then decided that it would be interesting to represent body dysmorphia, something which in and of itself is sometimes fed in part by images those who suffer from it see. After not being able to find satisfactory pictures to work with, I turned to the potential effects of texting and driving and stuck with it. Even my selection of powerful images for our discussion the other week—that of a woman being arrested with her child crying right next to her—has such undertones. I wasn’t even aware that I immediately equate meaningful and powerful work with negativity and I’m not entirely sure why I do it. Perhaps it has something to do with my personal experiences in life or the impact that darker images have left on me in the past. Whatever the case may be, trying to figure out my message and reflecting on my definition of meaning has made me question the extent of my visual literacy, something I assumed was fine.
I realize, of course, that it’s possible to have positivity in art. In fact, some of my peers proved just that. One image remix that continues to resonate with me since I first saw it earlier this week is Jennifer Eunice’s portrayal of reading being magical: it’s fun and uplifting while still being powerful and thoughtful (you’ll have to log in to Moodle to take a look). I suspect it will serve as a reminder that meaningful can equal light for some time to come.