Diacritical Mark

On the first day of the term, my professor, Julia Hoerner, made a pitch for any undeclared majors among her new students. She argued that we could bring elements from any of the other subjects we might be interested in pursuing into the ever-expanding universe of the arts, where the reverse is rarely the case. (True. However, it's also rarely the case that a degree in, say, Drama or Fine Art allows a graduate to walk off the stage upon graduation and into a high paying job. There's that. But I digress.)

Speaking of terms, a couple of posts ago, in my discussion on self-imposed limitations, I said I'd be introducing a new term into the art making lexicon. 

Today, I'll be doing exactly what Julia said I may. I'll be using my artistic license to steal a term off the English Department's shelf and glue it to a canvas, as it were. Whether it sticks or not is another matter.  

I've mentioned the moment when I told my wife that, were I ever to make art again, I wanted to "try my hand" at sculpting with Forstner bits, even though the tools weren't made for that sort of thing. 

I believe the primary impetus for that announcement, which is, in fact, what I did when I began sculpting a few years hence, was so was that in some way, the patterns the tool left on the surface of the wood hearkened to something fundamental to my aesthetic tastes.

Something diacritic.

Diacritical mark is a grammatical and linguistical term. We typically call it an accent mark - a mark, point, or sign added or attached to a letter or character to distinguish it from another of similar form, to give it a particular phonetic value, to indicate stress, etc. The word derives from the Greek word διακριτικός (diakritikos; distinguishing).
Somewhat akin to Robert Rauschenberg's "coopting" detritus and making art from it and like my "coopting" a tool unintended for carving to carve with, the word diacritic or diacritical mark itself, when used in the art making arena, exemplifies what it means. 

That is, used in the art making context, diacritic or diacritical mark becomes emblematic of the distinctive variations, the subtle or not so subtle twists in style, emphasis, concept, purpose, etc., that each of us bring to the table via our work. Things that, like our fingerprints, differentiate our work from that of anyone else's. 

While we all might find diacritical mark a little heavy-handed (one literal distinction of my own artwork), and I've yet to use it in casual conversation, I have a feeling Julia would approve my borrowing it from the English Department.


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