Student Stories

A Fascination with Images

Madalyn Shaw (C’22)

Madalyn is majoring in Art History Major and minoring in Studio Art and Global Medieval Studies.

Madalyn Shaw (C’22)

My history with the humanities has never been fixed to one set path. I enjoyed writing short stories since I was young, so early on I decided that I should be a novelist. In high school, I transitioned into theater where I acted and wrote a couple plays. I enjoyed it so much, I thought I ought to become an actor. Then a friend of mine introduced me to film, and I took up screenwriting as part of a collaboration. It was challenging and creative work, so when I made my decision to come to Georgetown, it was compelled by my desire to gain experience to become a better screenwriter.

However, this changed after my second year in the fall.  Stepping off the path I had set for myself years ago alarmed me greatly. Until that spring, in a theology course of all places, I read a book that inspired me in a new way: The Power of Images by David Freedberg. I believe that is where my fascination with “images” began.

Images are the material of culture. They make, and are made by, culture. They contain encoded bits of information, a form of messaging from advertisements on billboards to surveillance imaging and disseminate that message visually, and often implicitly. Images are never neutral; be it a racist depiction of Black bodies in an old daguerreotype or the sexualization and objectification of women in the canon of Western art. Images, and the creation of images, intersect with every facet of reality, (and every major at Georgetown). While my Art History major has introduced me to an art-centric approach to understanding history, culture, and society, I aim to reach across disciplinary boundaries and to perhaps question the limits of what art can be. As I enter my final year at Georgetown, I can proudly reflect on my time spent here learning new things like drawing and painting, and reconnecting with the old like acting and writing once again.