wild grapes, sacrificepomegranates, resurrectionThroughout history and around the world, visual symbolism has a rich history both as language and a bridge to language for the illiterate. As a student in Florence, Italy, I became intrigued with the symbolic world woven throughout the paintings I encountered there. Renaissance art is full of symbolism.

A ripe apple held in the hands of the Christ Child, a lily adorning the frame of the Madonna, a golden pear in the foreground of a betrothed couple, columbine1a lemon gracing the landscape, a juicy strawberry, a pomegranate-all are charmingly decorative to the modem viewer. Yet for painters of the Byzantine, Gothic and Early Renaissance periods, fruit, flowers and insects were part of a rich visual language. Artworks exhibited in public, mostly in churches and courthouses, were silent proclamations that everyone could readily understand. Paintings, throughout Western history, have been used as guides in illuminating the divine mysteries.

In a culture of limited literacy symbolic imagery played a vital in enlightening the masses. My recent work explores the symbols found in primarily Renaissance art and isolates those symbols visually, while reinforcing the often forgotten meaning in the title of the work to encourage the modern viewer to reconsider the rich vocabulary of visual symbolism.

-Sylvia Woods