Art, Activism, Symbolism

To those who value art, activism, or individuality, symbolism plays a large role. While we, as young people, strive to free ourselves from societal norms, we find comfort in representation through these symbols. Symbolism is involved in many aspects of our daily lives, from the icons on our computer screens to pride flags.

During the 19th century, French poets organized the Symbolism movement, which was a literary and artistic epiphany that allowed writers and artists to use symbols in their work to convey bigger messages. Symbolist literature and art represented liberation and reform against limitations of art in the 19th century, allowing artists to freely express larger ideas through small concepts and images.

Since this movement, visual arts have consisted of much more meaningful uses of symbolism. After her tragic accident, surrealist painter Frida Kahlo was immobile for three months and in  this time began painting portraits while bedridden. Her accident led to infertility, miscarriages, and chronic pain, a few of the concepts which she mentions in many of her artworks. In her piece, The Flying Bed, she portrays her pain through these messages with symbols such as blood, a fetus, and the damaged parts of her body: her uterus and pelvic bones.

flying bed.jpg
The Flying Bed. Image: Banco de Mexico Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo Museum Trust

In activist movements like Black Lives Matter, symbols contribute significantly. An image such as the rising fist of the BLM movement represents power, pride, and resilience in the black community. The symbol fits in with the movement’s ideas and encompasses the value of black lives and the goals of the movement, which aim at achieving racial equality and empowerment.

pan flag.png
Resources & Stock Images

The LGBT+ community has a wide range of symbols, colors, and flags to stand for self-identification, the variety of genders, solidarity, and uprising. For instance, the pansexual flag has three segments of pink, yellow, and blue, pink representing those who fall under the female sex/gender, blue representing male, and yellow representing those who do not fall into the gender binary. This symbol is used since pansexuality involves attraction towards persons of all gender identities and biological sexes, with a slogan that says “hearts not parts.”

The rainbow is the most recognized symbol in the LGBT+ community, and we celebrate recognition and unity of this community by wearing symbols of pride on our bodies and clothing. With the use of symbolism, we can provoke conversations, convey larger messages, and promote solidarity.

Featured photo: stock image