Crafting a multimodal visual essay (screenshots and textual narrative) in the iconography of word processing software on the computer desktop that is my canvas, I examine the extent to which trauma is encoded somatically, and consequently negotiated in the movements and postures of the body. As I testify in actu that communication may advance a resolution from trauma events, I assay the ways in which linguistic signs reflect this embodied process of address and recovery; the significance of a representational lexicon and how the application of a word can describe as well as direct this restoration; and how grammar and metaphor externally express and socially signal a trauma survivor’s internal evolution.


In a word, visual essay, digital, 13 1/4 x 70 1/2 inches, 2014.

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In a word, Panel 1, visual essay, digital, 13 1/4 x 23 1/2 inches, 2014.


In a word, Panel 2, visual essay, digital, 13 1/4 x 23 1/2 inches, 2014.


In a word, Panel 3, visual essay, digital, 13 1/4 x 23 1/2 inches, 2014.


Artworks © 2014 Devon Schiller. All rights reserved.

4 thoughts on “In a word

  1. Devon, your website is beautifully done – it offers the viewer a wide range of experience (intellectual, aesthetic, visual, kinetic…) and moves one’s attention dynamically between internal and external space and reality. Thank you particularly for sharing In a Word and Gestures of Violence – they are powerful and vulnerable pieces at the same time.  Your process of sharing this important work in itself is inspiring and truly relates to the place of art in mastering trauma and experiencing resilience.

  2. Reading Devon’s “In a Word” offers great insight into the workings of one survivor’s mind. The words portray the interwoven, nonlinear way of processing and healing after living through a traumatic event that is common to many survivors of sexual assault. This piece is emotive and powerful.

  3. As a woman’s historian and professor of gender studies, I find the questions Devon explores fascinating, and enjoy interacting with the interrogative aspects of these artworks through his easy-to-navigate website. The historical organization of the posts speak to his archival impulse. In developing this new medium of the visual essay, in showing his early works, digital sketchbook, and works in ink, he also demonstrates that he is a painter working largely in the way artists have for centuries–sketching observations, researching points of interest, and notating ideas.

    In addition, I really enjoy seeing the evolution of his language use–how it improves and clarifies over time. His brevity reveals a deep as well as an expansive command of the cultural theory, philosophy and science with which he engages so wittily. He uses specialized vocabulary perfectly, communicating multiple levels of meaning through his word choice. And there is such rhythm to his sentence structure! With ‘In a word’, his word choice and rhythm convey a feeling of overwhelming dread in the first panel that builds to triumph in the third. I find this sense of a body through a text so much more powerful than a solely pictorial representation.

  4. This piece left me completely speechless. I am still unable to clearly articulate its affect on me. The words and rhythm of this work carried me to a place inside of myself that is both battleground and sanctuary, in which I was able to feel, understand and embrace the natural processes of my own healing journey. Thank you for your contribution, Devon!

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