Sunday, January 26, 2014

Practicing Analysis of Visual Rhetoric: Ramiro Gomez's "Happy Hills"

This week we will read communication scholar Sonja Foss' "Theory of Visual Rhetoric." In this chapter, Foss argues that the term "visual rhetoric" can describe both a communicative artifact and an approach to analyzing an artifact. To jump-start this week's blog discussion, I will present an example of visual rhetoric and ask that you apply what we have learned about visual rhetorical strategies (including classical rhetorical appeals and Gerrard and Durkin's definitions of composition, shape/size, line, and color) to analyze this example.

The Artifact
Artist Ramiro Gomez’s series “Happy Hills” is a powerful example of visual rhetoric. This series includes acrylic paintings of domestic workers and day laborers applied to advertisements that represent luxury homes.

Figure 1: Portrait of an Affluent Family by Ramiro Gomez. Retrieved from:

Figure 2: Lightness and Heaviness by Ramiro Gomez. Retrieved from Policy Mic.

According to Sonja Foss' definition, Gomez’s adaptations of luxury magazine ads are examples of visual rhetoric because each piece

1) is symbolic (i.e., he uses acrylic paint and magazine images to represent people and ideas),

2) involves human intervention (i.e., Gomez is a human artist who made these pieces), and

3) is presented to an audience via the media, gallery exhibitions and Gomez’s blog (Foss 144). I first encountered Gomez’s work when a friend shared Kinsey Lane Sullivan's interview with him on Policy Mic.

The Prompt 
Gomez uses visual elements (color, composition, shape & size, line, light, texture) and other rhetorical strategies to achieve a specific function. I ask that you look closely at Figures 1 and 2 from Gomez’s series. Then, choose 1 of those pieces to write about as you respond to these prompts.  

  1. In his Policy Mic interview, Gomez explains his purpose: “I re-appropriate the advertisements with an intention to interrupt the underlying sales pitch. In the case of these luxury magazines, they consciously present an ideal environment unconsciously devoid of the people tasked with maintaining those environments” (qtd. in Sullivan). Gomez wants to make visible the often invisible people who make/keep those homes so pristine. While this is the artist’s stated intention, what is the actual “function” of the piece? What is the “action the image communicates” to viewers? What does it encourage viewers to do?
  2. Identify at least 1-2 visual rhetorical strategies you see employed in this piece. Be sure to use terms from the reading and class discussions this week.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Welcome to the Visual Rhetoric course blog!

Hi there! This blog is a collaborative project that we sustain all semester as we try to figure out what "visual rhetoric" is and how we can better understand the "visual culture" in which we live. You will each have a turn to run this space by posting found images, contemporary case studies involving visual communication, and --of course-- your astute observations on the course readings that will delight the class and viewers around the world!

Image from the 42.395 Course Syllabus by Jenna Vinson