Mitochondria Series : Arbores Autumnales Puella by Nona Faustine | 2016

III. Notes From My Mind’s Eye

Visual Element : Symbolism


No person is your friend who demands your silence or denies your right to grow — Alice Walker

Symbolism | Layers Of Experiences

Symbols, are simply visual idioms and metaphors, saying everything all the while communicating with no dialogue. The objects or icons that emerge from significant events, emotions, and ideals are vital because they are used to represent those experiences. Furthermore, the collective ideals shared amongst religious, social, or cultural groups help provide symbolic undertones that can be used to create a narrative within a composition. As a result, symbols are essential to communicating layers of information and ideals.


Mitochondria Series : End Of The Baby Days by Nona Faustine | 2012

Nona Faustine | Mitochondria Series

The works of Nona Faustine are by far the most tear jerking pieces have seen in a while. So, it was only appropriate to lean on the works of this conceptual artist to explore symbolism. It was the White Shoes series that drew my eye towards this artist, and eventually into viewing the incredible Mitochondria Series. Almost instantly, my emotions rejoiced over the references to black ancestors, black womanhood and black futures. This is a celebration of the intergenerational relationships that are completely earased from the minds of western society. Sharing reflections of symbolic strength and resilience, Mitochondria gives us life and adds to the foundation we’ve built thus far.

If you don’t understand yourself, you don’t understand anybody else — Nikki Giovanni

Arbores Autumnales Puella — Translated From Latin : Autumn Leaves Girld (2016)

Presented chronologically after White Shoes, Faustine continues the references of the white heels and baby shoes, a symbol of black past, to add a layer of information into the composition. With carefree barefeet, the subject sits in a tree that perfectly hugs the subject like a chair, which alludes to the strength and the beauty of life. Combining all symbolic elements within this composition, we are able to infer that this piece is about the journey of a young black woman as she defies the stereotypes created by past inequities.

End Of The Baby Days (2012)

Reminiscing on the times where I would sleep in my mothers’ arms, I am immediately reminded of the significance of black women. This image speaks in sort of a familial language that has me literally feeling this image. Faustine is showing us the delicacies of a love from a black mother. An image we don’t see in society, Faustine draws on the irony of the intentional and continuous erasure of black bodies in mainstream spaces to add value to this experience. As subtle as this image appears, it’s symbolism within the context of a post colonial society is powerful beyond measures because this is a statement of existence. An interjection to fine arts’ business as usual culture. The statement reads; stop the erasure of black bodies by showing the delicacies of black culture and black women to be precise.


(left) Mitochondria Series : Holding Back A Heard of Horses & The Princess And The Queen & (right) Cause I’ma Whole Lotta Woman by Nona Faustine | 2013

Holding Back A Heard of Horses & The Princess And The Queen (2013) & Cause I’ma Whole Lotta Woman

Two mothers, one grandmother, this is the foundation of this matriarch. Displaying the beauty that is inextricably linked with the histories of triumph, these are more than portraits. These are images that profess statements by merely existing in a space outside of the confines of social and cultural memory. Black women carry themselves with a specific type of beauty that is explored with these two works of art. We see unfiltered personality, strength, and love in a way we do not get to see outside of home. As a result, we must observe as though we’ve been invited to gaze past the mask black women wear. Visually we have entered into a guard-less environment granting us access to the sacred space hid behind the walls of defense against social violence.


Mitochondria Series : The Two Queens by Nona Faustine | 2011

The Two Queens

Two generations of black women framed within the composition, placing extra emphasis on the red color that grasps your focus. A woman sits in a chair a child stands next to her. A mutual respect of the intergenerational relationship, the child rests her hand on the elders lap as she sits while they both confront the camera. Because this is a long shot two person shot, we are able to observe the attire of the two subjects. The red, which symbolizes passion, strength, and love, is the link that binds the two subjects. Which help us to further conclude that this the personification of affirmation, that represents a continuous generational flow of passionate, strong and loving relationships.


Symbolism | Storytelling

Adding on to our understandings of the shape element, we take a look at symbolism using The Mitochondria Series by Nona Faustine. Drawing on our own experiences and events we were able to gather meaning about images artist make. There was almost something magical about this unapologetically vulnerable visual love story. Sharing such an experience, Faustine challenges us to remember the love of the black women who continue to care for us all.

Until Tomorrow,

Be A Storyteller, Share Experiences, & Challenge Norms | Create With Intention

In The Comment Section Below | How do you relate to the symbolism within Nona Faustine’s ‘Mitochondria’ Series?

Mitochondria by Nona Faustine