Semiology: Medieval Altar

For this piece, I created a wooden altar with two hinged panels and painted each with acrylic paint. The images reference juice cleanses and the anti-vaccine movement, as I sought to link these trends with the Middle Ages through the style of painting produced at that time. I was interested in associating modern health trends and fads with medical practices of the Medieval era, practices that, to the contemporary viewer, seem torturous and primitive. Similarly, the anti-vaccine movement, alternative medicines and the fad of juice cleanses seem to cause more problems than solutions in modern health and medicine. For example, a major outbreak of measles in the United States in the winter of 2014 and spring of 2015 was linked to low vaccination rates. In addition, the fad of juice cleanses, where one goes on a diet of mainly juice for several days to lose weight or “detox,” lacks scientific research to affirm its benefits.

I attempted to appropriate the artistic style of the twelfth and thirteenth centuries in Europe through references to the Madonna, with flat features and rosy cheeks and through the gold frame and the old lettering. I think the face of the woman in the right panel doesn’t quite mirror the style of painting the Virgin Mary that I wanted to mimic. Furthermore, I would have liked to include floral and herbal imagery, as medicinal plants were a significant part of Medieval medicine, and were used for a variety of ailments.

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