Project Description

Universal Symbols

Charles Sanders Peirce, the 19th-century American philosopher, theorized that human communication and cognition are based on the use of signs—specifically the index, icon, and symbol. The index, in Peirce’s semiotic framework, is a more true way of understanding our world, leaving a physical trace.  Crown’s work is anchored in the belief that every person has a distinct voice and contributes a mark that adds to the palimpsest of human knowledge; it is our marks throughout time that manifest the index of our experience on Earth. 

Crown’s series Universal Symbols is rooted in the history of communication and appreciation of the breadth of human mark-making. For years, Crown has studied Archaeologist Genevieve von Petzinger’s discovery of 32 graphic symbols that show our oldest communications with one another were made through the language of art. Universal Symbols investigates how this early human graphic language, such as cave signs, is remarkably similar to our language today and the use of digital symbols. Crown selects and then scans ancient symbols and digitally manipulates them to create entirely new forms in 3 dimensions. By imagining a symbol in contemporary form via computer graphics and scale manipulations, Crown reasserts what is similarly consistent in our shared humanity.

These earliest marks have a genealogical link to symbols still in use today, including the hashtag #, the asterisk *, the spiral (at) @, and the plus sign +, among many others. Crown’s work questions what it is that has remained constant through the development of human cognition, communication, and representation. Her sculptures are elaborations of these early forms; manipulations of their ‘genetic code’. With these three dimensional pieces, she explores how far essential forms can be altered while still being legible, testing the point at which meaning changes and is commandeered by a single, artistic vision.