Signs of Love and Family

Painted, etched, and photographed, the experiences and dynamics of the Family remains a constant, ever-changing fixture of visual culture. Crafted in stone, embedded on canvas, these familial artworks, both religious and secular, act as a visual anthropology, monitoring the journey of human thinking. Mapped through the changing faces of the Mother, the shifting nature of the kin, these visual signifiers of the Family, produce a system of visual literacy, allowing for the subtle, paradigm shifts of society, politics, and economics to become indefinitely embedded.

Examined through five seemingly distinct artworks representing the Family at periods ranging from the early sixteenth to the late twentieth century, a system of signification uncovers not only the mysteries of these works, but unravels how fundamental shifts in the meaning and perception of the Family expand and transform current visual culture. A perpetual evolution, these artworks chart the Family from a symbol of religious power and prestige, to an icon undeniably personal and nostalgic.


Following the signs, this provenance based research exhibition rediscovers five previously unknown artworks in Lake Forest College’s Art Collections. Presenting  copies of works by Raphael and Pablo Picasso, and originals by Adrian van Ostade, Ben Shahn, and Victor Herman, this exhibition only scratches the surface of Lake Forest’s extensive collections. Following the perspective of a semiotic analysis, in which each works “meaning” becomes multifaceted, Signs of Love & Family tests visitors to not only “look closer” at the artworks, but to “think deeper.” Not just interpreting symbols and signs, but seeking to uncover the cultural influences beyond mere layers of paint, the exhibit works to discover how an artwork can not just hang on a gallery wall, but jump out of the frame into one’s daily system of meaning.

Presented in conjunction with Unearthing the Sonnenschein, this exhibit not only showcases some of the hidden treasures of Lake Forest College’s Art Collections, but acts as an exemplar of the use of these collections in scholarly research.


Rebecca Goldberg and Samantha Niese