Thursday, March 12, 2009
American silhouettes are an art form that was popular in the 17th century and took inspiration from the Egyptians and Greeks. Then, it was referred to as shadow or profile art. A shadow was projected with the subject and a light behind a screen and the artist would then trace the shadow from the other side. The shadow was then filled in with paint or cut out with black paper. There were specific silhouette machines that helped the prolific profile artist. During the Middle Ages, shadow art was not as popular because it was linked with the soul and tampering with it could cause bad luck or disaster. Silhouette art was also popular in England, France, Germany and Switzerland. Many silhouette artists would create small profile portraits for less money, and could be incorporated into jewelry or household objects. I have always been drawn to art that incorporates the use of silhouettes. Kara Walker makes very powerful work that demonstrates the use of a gestural figure and addresses aspects of racism. Banksy, a British graffiti artist uses the silhouette to make a powerful public statement. The silhouette points out the gesture without giving away a specific identity, which can be a powerful tool for telling a story or getting a point across.