PROJECT 1 – Personal Symbol

 –Phase 1–

Since humans developed cognizance, visual manifestations of what we see, hear, smell, feel, and imagine have presented themselves in a wide away of forms. Starting with cave drawings—the most well-known being in Lascaux, France—symbols of hunters and animals were created to show a procession of hunting and spiritual ritual. Figures of humans and heard animals were shown in simplified line form. This type of symbol is referred to as pictograms, and they can be traced to nearly 30,000 years ago. From pictograms comes the emergence of the early forms of the alphabet. Even though civilizations remained thousands of miles apart, many of their alphabets contain similarities and common symbols. The emergence of language itself is–in my oppiion—the most important shift in symbol usage all throughout human history.

Looking for a gateway into symbol culture while still finding something that relates to me, I was reminded of religious iconography—specfically for Christians. Coming from a very religious family myself, I would consider myself well-practiced in the Christian tradition, and have known for years what the Christian community thinks about me, specifically my sexuality. Anyways, I digress from the history of Christian icons.

While simple symbols such as the Cross or the Ichthys have remained without contention, the use of art in the church has been a heated debate since the religion’s inception. Many people viewed any form of iconography as pagan and self-worshiping, so it was kept out of churches until the 2nd century. By then, manuscript art, paintings, statuary, and stained glass would soon flood the church buildings.

Architecturally, the church also developed from Basilica—a relatively rectangular shape good for circumambulation—toRomanesque in which the floor plan forms a cross with the nave and the transept to Baroque, which focused of illuminated, theatrical spectacle.

I would like to combine the development of church symbols and architecture into my personal symbol that synthesizes the Christian perspective with the temporal architecture from Dallas and New York. In that way, my symbol shows both how I view myself and my interests, and how an outside community might view me (the church and the cities).


Mood board outlining my inspiration for this project

Presenting my mood board to the class

–Phase 2–

Moving forward, as I develop a personal symbol, I would like to integrate icons of the cityscape with some form of religious iconography. For example, one idea illustrated in my thumbnail drawings is a cross made by intersecting three buildings. I would like to emphasize one window within one of these three buildings to show how I might feel distant from New York, the Church, or Dallas at times for various reasons. For all of my project ideas, I would like to work with wire and cardboard.

Initial thumbnail sketches

Initial thumbnail sketches cont.

Thumbnail sketches phase 2

Thumbnail sketches phase 3

–Phase 3–

For my final project sketch, I created a sculpture that conflates religious iconography with mundane skyscrapers from the two cities that I feel most connected to—Dallas and New York. At the center, lies text that relates my personal relationship and experience with religion as well as an excerpt from the writing “Architecture Must Blaze.” At the bottom, lies one of the Twin Towers, and while I have never seen one in person, being now a resident of New York, I feel more of a personal attachment to the tragedy. I want to use acrylic for my finished product, and simplify some of the details to make the buildings merely silhouettes.

Final sketch

Mechanical connector idea

3D model of my project made of cardboard and copper wire

Drawn to scale template


–Phase 4–

Once I finalized my design, I decided to use square wooden dowels for the final project. I quickly realized, however, that the saw machines in the woodshop were not precise enough for many of the angles I needed.

wooden dowels cut with angled saw machine beds

Closeup of inaccuracy

With that understanding, I began looking at other methods of cutting the wood and decided to pursue the laser lab. I created my project rendering on illustrator and formatted it to laser machine language.

Illustrator rendering

Video of laser cutter

It took the machine about 30 minutes to cut out, but in a few places, I had to use my snap blade to cut out the craft ply where the laser didn’t cut all the way through.

Cutting the craft plywood

After I cut all the pieces out, I taped them all together to get an idea of how everything would fit and look.

Taped model–angle

Taped model–frontal


Before I began binding each piece together, I sanded down the plywood on all sides to remove the smoke and burn marks.

Sanded vs. unsanded

Unfortunately, the craft plywood was too delicate for the wooden peg method I originally intended to use, so I resorted to wood glue.

Lastly, I hung up the central text piece with clear stretch cord. It took many hours to find a method that allowed this piece to hang without twisting backward or being lop-sided, but eventually, I connected each piece with a wooden dowel and strung up 2 sides of cord, treating it like a swing.

Final project–Frontal

Final project–detail photo of text

Final project–angle



My final design is much more minimal than from my original sketches and models, as I quickly found out that the silhouettes of each building were beautiful simply by themselves. Adding any additional detailing to the interior ended up cluttering the whole project. The final project represents my aesthetic to a T and the content resonates with my identity to architecture, Christianity, and the city I inhabit at large. Additionally, the text at the center creates sexual implications that convey my identity as a queer individual within the church.

After completing the sculpture, I have a great sense of how to use linear materials to form 3d shapes, what wood types work for specific forms of mechanical connectors, and how to use the laser lab for projects requiring more precise angles and forms. In the future, when I want to use mechanical connectors, I will use solid wood or MDF, as the particle board between the craft plywood I used fell apart when I drilled holes or pushed nails into it.

In conclusion, I’m very proud of my finished product. It maintains the level of quality and precious I aimed for and imbues the viewer with themes on the conflating identities within cities, religion, and myself as an artist.





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