The Symbolism of Symbols

symbols / 220px-Etruscan_pendant_with_swastika_symbols_Bolsena_Italy_700_BCE_to_650_BCE

Details from: Road to Necropolis / Etruscan Pendant with swastika symbols; circa 700-650 BC
I remember going into a public building in Buffalo, NY and being aghast when I saw the floor had a tile motif that included a border made of swastikas. Of course this symbol has been used in many cultures throughout history. So why was I so taken aback? Because this symbol that has appeared in places as diverse as Hindu and American Indian cultural artifacts was used as the "brand" of the Nazi party. How did an association that lasted less than ten years tarnish this innocuous symbol that existed for thousands of years? A symbol can be like the pictorial version of Pi (π) in math--a simple picture signifying a complex idea. A symbol, or glyph, can be part of a primitive language or a world renowned trademark. Just as looking at the "golden arches" can make a person feel hungry, for many people, the swastika signifies evil incarnate. What power these simple pictures have.
What happens when you combine pictures? The juxtaposition results in a new picture with a more complex meaning. As an example, Road to Necropolis is a series that deals with the Holocaust. Each picture was formed by combining separate picture elements into a new whole. However, each of those picture elements contains its own meaning. This is the challenge and beauty of photomontage. You are, in essence, forming language by combining separate elements. What is the basis for this language? I use the established syntax of photography as basis for composing my pictures. What are those mysterious symbols on the hats above? I purposely used arbitrary electrical symbols through out the series. My thought was to take ostensibly meaningless symbols and seemingly imbue them with meaning as the Nazis had done with the swastika. The result is a single photomontage, made from various picture elements, with additional picture elements within those, that hopefully works on multiple levels.