personal shields and other matters series


The artwork in this section examines the many ways humans have sought protection from actual and presumed perils. Throughout history and in nearly every culture, there are belief systems that inanimate objects, incantations and prayers are able to intervene on the believer’s behalf and offer defense from evil or misfortune. These protection devices offer the individual comfort and give them the illusion of insurance against the threats.


There are many methods people have used to shield themselves from harm. Ancient Romans and other cultures have worn amulets and talismans, the Jewish prayer Kol Nidre offers up incantations, Mediterranean tribes use charms to deflect the evil eye and Roman Catholics wear scapular medals, to name a few. Protection was sought to avoid injury, to evade disasters or disease, to prevent harmful spirits or even to avoid curses, either verbal or written. For some of the pieces I have also illustrated the need for protection from internal threats such as our own fears and doubts.


I have chosen to use the shield form, a recognizable icon of protection, as the image carrier to represent the different longings. Each shield offers symbolic protection from a specific casualty. I have chosen the primary materials of wood, leather and metal for their intrinsic nature. They are all found on historical shields from many cultures. By printing and painting on the leather, I am able to use the leather as a substrate for text and image. I use text and language marks on most of the pieces, both as a communication device and as visual patterning. These images, along with the other embellishments enable the surfaces to become rich and layered with texture and meaning.