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The Myth of Agency Around Artists’ Signatures

In an art world built on shifting sands, artists’ signatures become symbols of agency for some, and relics of the past for others.

Artist Chiffon Thomas approaches the dilemma more philosophically. Thomas, whose solo show Staircase to the Rose Window was on view at PPOW Gallery in Tribeca last year, says he draws inspiration from his life for his art. It makes sense, then, to impress these works with his signature. Over time, he explains, he stopped signing his works and acquired an existential approach to art-making. He realized he wanted to capture a sense of universality in his art, to the extent that he grew uncomfortable using his childhood, his family, or any personal signifiers. Eventually, he says, “I didn’t feel like the use of my signature was significant to what I was trying to do as a creator.” I ponder the profundity of what Thomas tells me; I feel that he is almost trying to negate himself in his works and remove his authorship to express the universal condition of human existence. He says he wishes to find an anonymous space within his work. With this anonymity he believes he can find a safe space to show vulnerability, rawness, and authenticity.