In the study of semiotics, we discover that a sign is comprised of the signifier and the signified. For instance, in our culture, a red octagon (the signifier) represents the idea of coming to a stop (the signified). The Swiss linguist Ferdinand de Saussure, the founder of semiotics or semiology, taught that the signifier itself is arbitrary. For instance, a red octagon could have just as easily meant go, which obviously would now create some traffic problems.
Generally, a sign—be it a road sign or a logo—points to a referent, the thing or idea that the image symbolizes. However, the signs I've created in this series are not signs in the truest sense, because what they point to does not exist. The referents are fictionalized. However, the signs (as they appear in the form of latex paint on Masonite) certainly do exist.
The tapestry of signage was influenced by unused billboards I saw as a child along Route 66 and I-40. I assume, as a matter of frugality and resourcefulness, old signs were chopped up and re-composed. The text was oftentimes flipped sideways or upside down, so it no longer functioned well as an advertisement. The deconstructivist typographer David Carson, however, pointed out that these visual amalgams were sometimes more effective than the originals.
For this series, I wanted to intentionally create a mosaic of hand-painted road signs, each referring to something that doesn’t necessarily exist but could exist. Among the pieces, one finds references to smoked ham, adult entertainment, religion, and state championships. All things we’ve undoubtedly seen advertised in this part of the country.
With this work, I’m encouraging viewers to see signs in a new way. Signs are more than just markers educating or enticing a passerby. They serve as identifiers of culture, values, and even happenstance. Signs call out to weary travelers and make promises, some of which go unfulfilled.
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