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Studio Art Concentration: Interpretations of Snakes

By Rosanna Zhao, V Form

Studio Art Concentration: Interpretations of Snakes

Growing up as a devout Christian, I always found myself looking at snakes in a negative light; they represented sin and temptation, luring man and woman to take a bite from the fruit that ruined their lives forever. However, as I became increasingly fascinated by the fashion world, a new representation of snakes enlightened me. Wrapped around models and flashing in bold reds and yellows, snakes became a more regal and daring creature in my eyes. Inspired by the two drastically different images of snakes, I focused my Advanced Studio Art concentration on the distinct interpretations of snakes in different time periods and cultures.


In my art pieces, I portray the stark contrast between different representations of snakes. This contrast is highlighted in the piece above. The brighter and more vibrant heart on the left symbolizes the idea of rebirth and healing associated with snakes as they are able to shed their skins. The words in the background tell the story of Wadjet, an Egyptian goddess who was often portrayed as a snake and was identified as the protector of Ra. On the right side, another snake coils around a dark and lifeless heart, representing the more negative themes connected with serpents: harm and death. Behind this snake, words in red reveal the legend of Apep, the Egyptian god of chaos and the enemy of Ra. He was often linked with unexplainable yet dangerous natural occurrences such as storms and earthquakes.

In order to further develop my concentration, I learned how to use unique materials to capture my audience. Upon the first glance, my work on the left may seem like an ordinary drawing of a snake’s eye. However, with more careful observation, the viewer can see that the snake’s eye is created with actual snake skin. My fascinating gift of snake skin (which, in honesty, I had found slightly horrific to hold at first) was from my beloved and supportive teacher, Ms. Putnam. I had decided to glue the snake skin onto the pupil instead of the scales in order to create the extraordinary texture found on snakes without being obvious in my usage of material.

Examining the theme of serpents in histories across the globe has been an incredible experience for me. Even though the immense amount of research caused me to have several nightmares in which I was running for my life away from a snake monster, I am extremely thankful to have had this opportunity in Advanced Studio Art. Upon my exploration with the countless interpretation of snakes, I believe that I have learned something beyond the scope of serpents, but about the varying perspectives that may form from looking at one identical situation. Neither the positive nor the negative connotations of snakes is necessarily right or wrong, but they both contribute to the fascinating complexity of serpents. I hope that my portrayal of distinct interpretations of snakes in varying cultures can inspire others to realize that even the most basic image can reveal several perspectives. As members of this increasingly connected yet diversifying world, we must seek to understand concepts in new lights and to respect new perspectives.

Below are several additional pieces to help you understand the fascinating story behind snakes:

Rosanna Zhao is a V Form boarding student from Shanghai, China. She lives in PineOak as a Dorm Prefect, serves as an editor for the LEO Academic Journal, and will be co-captain of Girls Cross Country in the upcoming fall season.

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