Date of Submission

Spring 2011

Academic Program

Studio Arts


Lisa Sanditz

Abstract/Artist's Statement

My project is a “visual translation” of De fronteras, a book of short stories by contemporary Salvadoran author Claudia Hernández. This was an experiment based on my own tentative theory that all art forms are roughly interchangeable. I think all artists, regardless of their field of expertise, engage in the same basic activity: sensually perceiving the world around them, processing this raw data, and translating it into an artistic medium. In my own experience as a dabbler in music, art, theatre and writing, I have often felt that no matter what final form my artistic output takes, it all comes from a common source—a never-ending attempt to solve the same never-ending problem. The only difference I could see between writing and drawing were the tools their practitioners use: word choice, syntax, punctuation, metaphor and style for a writer; composition, color, subject, scale, media and mark quality for a visual artist.

With this in mind, I produced this body of work with the mindset that replacing words with images does not have to limit or even change the emotional impact of the idea being expressed. I strove to create a visual language to convey the wordless essence of Hernández’s stories. I tried to approach this endeavor in the same way an adept literary translator would a text—paying obsessive attention to the details while not losing sight of the larger effect.

Any translation is a balancing act. When translating from one language to another, on one side of the scale you have literal fidelity to the source text and, on the other, clarity and fluidity for readers in the new language. Going too far to either extreme results in a bad translation. In my process of translating from words to images I found myself faced with a similar dilemma: I could either overload a piece with visual information in an attempt to make the specific details of a story’s plot as clear as possible, or I could make an image so vague and minimal that it lost any apparent connection to the text. It became my goal to find what felt like the balance between these two poles.

A question I constantly grappled with in my studio process was how to capture the heart of a story, in all its complexity, within the confines of a piece of paper. I realized early on that it does not suffice to produce an effective image; you have to render it in an effective way. Every mark you make means something. Lines, brush strokes, drips, splatters—I have come to understand that these things are a visual artist’s words, and to effectively get a message across you have to choose the right ones. I started out from a traditional “illustrational” mindset (choosing a pivotal scene from a story and drawing it like a still frame from a movie) but over time I found my way to a much more liberated and, I hope, effective approach. I tried to strip down the stories to their bare emotional essence—of course this is entirely subjective, and thus a seriously flawed translation, but what translation isn’t flawed to some extent?—and relied heavily on the use of empty white space to create an effect of isolation and disconnect similar to the ubiquitous feelings of loss and fragmentation that pervades the post-war landscape of Hernández’s stories.

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