Symbols and Social Mythology

The Big Idea:

What role do symbols play in defining a person's identity? Can symbols have multiple meanings?

Activity Overview

Social symbolism is created when a group of people employs a shared language of symbols. These symbols often identify the group by illustrating what the members have in common. Artists have investigated this phenomenon by creating their own symbols, or critiquing the symbolsm of others. In this activity you will look at symbols around you and research the symbols' history, discovering how meanings can change depending on time, place and viewpoint.

Look closely

Click on each artist button at right to view detailed screens about the artist and his or her works. Be sure to click on all images, view all videos, read all documents, and use the zoom tool to look closely at the works of art.

In this activity you will:

  1. look at artists and how they use personal symbolism
  2. think about some common uses of symbolism
  3. research the history of a symbol
  4. present your research to the class

You will be graded on:

  1. description of how artists use personal symbolism
  2. quality of research on your chosen symbol
  3. organization and clarity of presentation
  4. written reflection

New terms:

symbolism