04 March 2012

Money Talks and So Do Words

From a Google Images search of the word “money”
I've decided to take a break from the large scale prints that have made up the “Loaded” series so far and create some smaller works, still on the topic of money. The topic continues to intrigue me, but it also perplexes me and I've found it challenging to work with.

Part of the challenge lies in the fact that money is so deeply embedded in our culture, in our ideas about life, in our daily existence. As we've seen so clearly in the past few years, our global economic system is the strongest driving force on the planet. When it crashes, we all go down. And in many ways, the global economy is now what binds us together as human beings. Economic theories are the most universally held values in the world, business is our common arena, and transactions are our common language. Money is the water we swim in. We love money, we hate money, we want money, we structure our lives around getting money, we make our personal decisions based on how much money we can access at any given time. We need money. None of this is necessarily bad, but because we have internalized these ideas of ownership, property, credit, value, etc. so deeply we take them as true without examination. As I've worked on these prints, I've found it challenging work to uncover and deconstruct my own attitudes and ideas and conflicts about money and use them as grist for the art-making mill.

In my work as a commercial artist, when I'm assigned a new topic to illustrate I often begin with a search on Google Images. What that search will reveal are the cliches about a topic. For example, if you type in the word “idea,” Google will serve you up a page of light bulb drawings. When creating an illustration for a magazine or newspaper, you don't want to illustrate the cliche (unless you want it to look like clip art), but if you reference a cliche and then put a twist on it you often get a successful image that people will immediately recognize and feel connected with. In the same way, I thought it would be interesting to look at our cliches about money, so I started to collect words and phrases that we use in everyday language about money. That study of our language finally came into focus for me when I heard Kristi Nelson speak about money and mindfulness at the Creating a Mindful Society Conference in New York last fall. Kristi pointed out that we express our ambivalence and sometimes our true feelings about money in companion phrases such as “filthy rich; dirt poor,” where we use the same metaphor to describe both ends of the economic spectrum. This spark from Kristi was all I needed to develop this next group of prints.

So that's the scenario. These smaller prints will be 12" x 19" and will portray 8 or 9 of these companion phrases, cliches we have about money that use the same metaphor for both wealth and poverty. I'm looking forward to getting started on them this week.


Unknown said...

I listened to a really good "this american life" episode about money being this fictional thing.

Annie B said...

Thanks for that link, Hannah. Just listened; it was a great show.