Thursday, March 21, 2013

ampersands (or epershands) & art

An ampersand (or epershand; “&”) is a logogram representing the conjunction word “and” — this symbol is a ligature of the letters et, Latin for “and.”See more of an "An ampersand is a logogram" at but does it float, a selection from the 300&65 Ampersands project. 

 Yes, there is an art project dedicated just to & in all its varied typographical glory. The combination is clearer in some designs than others. Etcetera can be written as &c and et alia as &al. 

So what do ampersands have to do with art? And why post about the humble ampersand?

Because two seemingly different threads from very different but favorite art sites caught my eye at the same time. One is But Does It Float, a fascinating but hard to describe art site. The other is the Arts USA blog, currently running an excellent series of posts on the arts in early childhood development and education, coinciding with Keep Arts in the Schools campaigns that (because of funding cuts) we are all seeing more of in our mailboxes and online. Words for art and education.
Egyptian hieroglyphs:
originated as logograms.

Coincidental proximity or deep connection, writing about both is a way to explore the notion just to see where it takes me, whether eureka moment, enlightenment, or frivolous distraction, an amusing zeugma (rhetorical term for unlikely yoking, from the Classical Greek for ox). 

Art is everywhere. Not all is high art, formal art; nor are the categories stable. One epoch's valued art form becomes another's craft or hobby art. Consider the Book of Kells, high art and calligraphy, which like logograms, pictograms, ideograms, typography and other design arts are also citizens of the art world. Mixed media may be the original art.

Since I'm a word & book person, word art has a particular appeal for me. Words, letters and writing systems originated as images, pictures ~ visual art before becoming a literary one.

Where is the boundary between high and low? Is it the emotive power? Vision? Skill level required for execution? Cultural prestige? Status, privileging of forms and media? Consider purpose/s: aesthetic; functional; self-expression; education and personal development.

Q: Why arts & ampersands? A: Keep arts in schools & everywhere else

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