American, born 1954
Kill Yourself, 1989
Vinyl paint on canvas
70 x 90 inches (177.8 x 228.6 cm)
Gift of Olivia Badrutt, 2008
In this painting from 1989, the words “Kill Yourself,” whose literal meaning is rather dark, take on a comic book feel through the colorful and playful way Nancy Dwyer paints them, surrounded by bubbles and bright colors. In paintings like this, Dwyer invites us to examine the ways in which our words may not match our actions, and how the meaning of phrases and words can change with a change in context.
About the Artist
After graduating in 1976 from the University at Buffalo, Nancy Dwyer moved to Manhattan and began exhibiting with a group of artists who have come to be known as the Pictures Generation, named for the 1977 group exhibition Pictures at Artists Space in SoHo. Of that time, she has commented, “ . . . realizing that we’re being lied to in the media. . . . How do you gain control over that? How do you have an identity as a human in America? We took that on through our artwork.” Since then, Dwyer has created works in many media, including public art, painting, sculpture, and installation, always coming back to her interest in language and the media. “I think I was dealing with language all along. I was trying to distill the picture to its essence and to its implied meaning, almost iconic meaning. I was kind of making icons out of pictures. So, what’s the most common icon in our world? It's a word.”
Related Lesson Plan
Choose Your Words Carefully (For Grades 3–12)
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