May 11, 2017 by Katia
Most people who choose to dedicate themselves to the academic study of Art History realize that their choice will open a lot of doors for them in the telemarketing world. A degree in Art History is like a magical portal to an unknown and mysterious career. Will it be recruitment? Aviation? You never know. But every once in a while the world needs a trained eye to examine a puzzling image from a compositional and iconographic perspective and to make sense of it for the rest of us.
Luckily I’m an experienced Recruiter, so let’s talk about the iconography of the new Dove Real Mother’s Day campaign.
— Dove Canada (@DoveCanada) May 2, 2017
We are confronted by a series of images some of which have a deeply rooted tradition in the history of Art. We’ll examine these images.
The most dominant spot is occupied by a battle scene. The roots of this imagery are clearly traceable to classic art and probably predate it. A warrior is seen lying down while two others on the opposing side celebrate their victory by performing a shamanic ritual. They are flanked by non humanoid casualties that pepper the battle field with little color stains, creating a contrast between the somber subject and the stylistic tools used by the artist — namely the cheerful colour palette — to convey their message. Is this intentional irony? I think not.
Despite the tragedy implied on first impression, a deeper examination of the image will reveal that the joyous colours actually support the image’s message rather than juxtaposing it. Despite the ominous composition with the alleged defeators physically asserting their superiority, there is no clear winner here, no single, dominant protagonist occupying the image’s center, the middle of the battlefield. In fact if you draw a line in the middle of the image you’ll find that both characters symmetrically flank it on both sides. The image we see is not that of defeat but perseverance! Notice the warrior’s hand wrapped around the waist of the (prematurely) celebratory warrior. This is no a defeated warrior! This is a Phoenix raising up from a pile of once folded clothes (you may see clothes, we see enemies). And she’s doing it like a boss. While some of my fellow art historians may see a defeated warrior, I see a proactive Sphinx, smiling enigmatically, selectively power napping with one arm wrapped around the opposing warrior’s waist, ready to pull them into a warm, yet steady, onesie-wrangling embrace – an attire symbolizing the other side’s looming 7pm defeat and oppression.
The subject of the next image is Shauna who is portrayed in an unfair David vs. Goliath type scene. But is she really the subject? Shauna is receiving a nose squeeze from a tiny cowboy, identified as such by his plaid bandana. The cowboy looks at us, the art work’s implied audience, directly and unapologetically as if to say “I stand behind my choices”. Green and red, the colours that adorn the image’s main protagonist are considered complimentary colours, two that complete each other and make one whole. Like his counterparts Donatello and Michelangelo’s Davids he’s a stand alone fixture communicating with every fibre of his being “oh mother, you’re adorable, but I’ve got this”. Placed in the centre of the image this fierce little David clearly runs the show, the neutral colours of the walls behind further emphasizing him as the focal point of the image.
What is the significance of the act of squeezing the nose?
“Through your nose, you draw into the body the “breath of life”. Your nose is another part of your defense system. “ (Source: The Symbologist.Org)
Got it. Loud and clear.
The images we’ve just examined offer a glimpse into the intricate relationships between two parties with often conflicting agendas. In both cases, however, the seemingly defeated warrior has an arm wrapped around their opponent creating a circular fluidity and suggesting that despite evidence to the contrary they function as one whole.
Happy Mother’s Day!
Anything I missed?
This was a Finish The Sentence Friday Post on the topic “Oh, Mother”. Please visit the hosts blogs:
My endlessly talented friend Kristi at Finding Ninee
The lovely Lisa at The Meaning of Me
The post is humorous and as a mother I have nothing but respect and appreciation for the mothers and children featured in this important campaign.
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