First off, some of the time they just look pretty, I craft images like an interior designer arranges furniture, that being said there is some meaning behind them, created both unconsciously and at times with total awareness. Recently I have made more of an effort to intentionally apply some literal meaning to my work. It has become easier to do the older I get since I feel like I actually have something to say.
I have compiled a glossary of sorts that apply to some images I use. If you see these images in a painting of mine they may be able to help decipher the meaning behind the piece. Keep in mind I am intentionally vague, that is part of the work, think of it as me leading you to a way of thinking but you have to decide how to interpret the concept. My work is supposed to be a conversation between us not a dictation from on high.
"I like your paintings but what do they mean?" Is a question I hear all to often.
This represents naivety, lack of experience, wisdom, or judgment.....a certain innocence or unsophistication.
Guns represent violence, in particular how easy it is to use violence to reach our goals. It does not always mean gun violence.
If insects are the stripped down individuals within a society then any machinery I include represents the inner workings of society itself. This is a concept I am still fleshing but basically machine=society.
I think of societies as hives or colonies and individuals are logically the insects of that system. When I use an insect I am strictly referring to actions and habits of an individual that are informed by the society they inhabit.
If society is a machine and modern society is largely hinged upon digital information then the most efficient way to communicate is through binary. I often encode phrases or messages within paintings this way. Sometimes its gibberish though, just random 1's and 0's.
I use animals as a way to represent moods, feelings and emotions. Sometimes I use people, but I find that animals convey emotions more clearly. For example, if I use a person then race, gender, beauty, age and status all become part of the conversation as well.
Birds are currently the only animal I use that has a specific meaning; freedom. But not in a generic American way, more freedom through or from the subject of the painting.
But you know what? While I do keep these symbols in mind nothing I paint can be interpreted so literally. I'm not a writer, I am communicating in a more fluid form than the written word. Your interpretations are as valid as my intentions, as a matter of fact, that is pretty much the whole point of creating art (for me anyway). Trying to communicate concepts that have no known vocabulary to describe them.