Marilyn Nelson: U.S. Naval Signal Flag Narratives – A, D, N, and R

  • ©2003, Marilyn Nelson

  • ©2003, Marilyn Nelson

  • ©2003, Marilyn Nelson

  • ©2003, Marilyn Nelson



    U.S. Naval Signal Flag Narratives - A, D, N, and R


Creation Year:



    32 in x 24 in each


Artist Statement:

    The series U.S. Naval Signal Flag Narratives consists of 26 editions of serigraphs. Imagery consists of photographs and handmade and computer-aided drawings and paintings, working with Photoshop, Illustrator, and FreeHand. The confluence of computer processes with serigraphy provides a contrast between digital and analog media. The use of digital technologies in my work allows manipulation of photographs and precise drawing of diagrams. It allows me to print color separations of photo-based work, which are then translated directly to the screen. The physical working process of screen printing, although difficult, is important to me. I hand pull all of my prints, one color at a time. My prints may have as few as eight colors, or as many as 17. My meticulous attention to craftsmanship at the computer and with my printmaking is an integral part of the content of each print.

    Maritime flags are used to communicate while maintaining radio silence, transmitting messages by hoisting an alphabet flag on a halyard. When hoisted alone, each flag voices an individual message. Each print in this series contains the image of one flag and its written meaning. Included are my interpretations of the flag’s message. My narrative intent is not to render concepts through realism, nor is it to literally illustrate each flag’s definition. What’s important to me are the patterns of effects that sustain a cohesive connection of my stories and create metaphoric associations with the viewer.

    Memories seem to be more lyrical than literal. The process of revisiting one’s history is natural and allows one to adapt to possibilities in the future. When I began this series, I thought the imagery to be only about family relationships and personal memories of growing up within the culture of the Navy. I soon realized that, in addition, my concepts represent experiences shared by thousands of service families. The military constitutes a separate and distinctly different subculture from civilian America. The government develops, maintains, and staffs its own resources to support the member families as they attempt to cope with the stresses and demands of the military lifestyle. These care-taking resources create a closely knit community that exercises a powerful shaping influence on the children. These prints examine a wide scope of influences and connect my memories to my present.

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