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works and metaphors. For metaphors do not invite just any kind of exploration.
They invite exploration of the interaction between the source domain and the
target domain and the categories they call to mind. Not every artwork, not even
every artwork that invites exploration, invites the kind of exploration that
metaphor activates.Therefore, not every visual artwork, including the case where
every visual image is counted as a visual artwork, is a metaphor.
However, there may be another way to motivate the notion that all visual
images are visual metaphors.There is a view of visual metaphor, different from the
one propounded in this essay that would appear to send us in the direction of the
conclusion that all visual images are visual metaphors.According to Virgil Aldrich,
a visual metaphor can be characterized in terms of three components: the mater-
ial of the visual image, its subject matter, and its content.20 The material of a visual
image comprises its shaped properties: its texture, color, line, mass, form, and the
ways in which these are handled.The subject matter of the visual image is what-
ever it represents. And the content of the visual image is the result of the interac-
tion of the material and the subject matter.Viewers are said to gain access to this
content through a special mode of attention called prehension.
Though Aldrich is somewhat obscure, I think that what he has in mind is that
the subject matter of the visual image provides us with the target domain and the
organization or the form of the material functions as the source domain.The con-
tent of the visual image is metaphorical “ the product of the interaction of the
form of the material and the subject matter which interaction constitutes an
expressive portrayal. Presumably, since all visual images involve shaped material
and subject matter, all visual images will involve metaphorical content understood
as the expressive portrayal of subject matter.
Putting aside the question of whether the interaction of the material of the
visual image and the subject matter always results in an expressive portrayal, the
major question one wants to ask is whether the phenomenon Aldrich has in mind
is usefully called metaphor. It is undeniably true that quite often what Aldrich calls
the material of the image and the subject matter interact in such a way that an
expressive portrayal of the subject matter emerges. But is it fruitful to regard this
interaction as a matter of metaphor? The phenomenon that Aldrich seems to have
in mind is usually called expression, not metaphor.
Gaston Lachaise™s 1932 bronze Standing Woman expresses a feeling about the
monumental strength of his subject, woman.Through his handling of scale and pro-
portion, through his clear articulation of the subject™s musculature, and through his
emphasis on the clean, impenetrable surface of the figure, Lachaise imbues his subject
matter with a quality of elemental power. Through his treatment of the materials
with reference to the relevant subject matter, Lachaise makes us aware of a certain
quality “ say, the elemental power of woman. That is, we can characterize that
Lachaise has done within Aldrich™s framework. But it is not a metaphor.
There are not two concepts here.The handling of the material imbues the subject
matter with a quality of elemental power or expresses a feeling of elemental power
with regard to the subject matter. It is difficult to specify a source domain and a tar-
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get domain in this case. Of course,Aldrich does invoke the possibly contestable dis-
tinction between material and subject matter, but these do not seem like units of
metaphor if only because it is difficult to think of the handling of materials as typi-
cally a concept or a category. If one wants to speak of the material and the subject
matter of an image, these distinctions may sometimes be useful for explaining the
expressive qualities of images. But it seems wrong to me to reduce expression to
metaphor. Thus even if all visual images involved expression (a very controversial
claim), one should not go on claim that all visual images involve metaphor.
Aldrich™s view of visual metaphor is too broad. It appears to me to conflate
expression with metaphor. There are some visual metaphors. But we need a dif-
ferent account than Aldrich™s in order to identify them.

I I I . I D E N T I F Y I N G V I S UA L M E TA P H O R S

Up to this point, our conception of a visual metaphor has been that a visual
metaphor is a visual image in which physically noncompossible elements belong
to a homospatially unified figure which, in turn, encourages viewers to explore
mappings between the relevant constituent elements and/or the categories or
concepts to which they allude.21 This is a useful starting point for identifying
visual metaphors. But more needs to be said.
A visual metaphor is a visual image. This signals that the figure as a whole is
recognizable perceptually as well as that the elements that serve in the viewer™s
mappings be perceptually recognizable.22 This latter condition amounts to the
requirement that the relevant elements be recognizable by looking. Of course, in
order to negotiate a visual metaphor, the viewer must not only be able to recog-
nize the relevant elements. Her attention also needs to be drawn to them. So the
relevant elements must stand out; they must be visually salient or prominent.
There is no way to anticipate all the ways in which image-makers can make visual
elements prominent.That is part of the image-maker™s art. All we can say by way
of theory on this matter is that the elements be salient.
These elements are presented as inhering in homospatially unified figures and
they co-habitate within the continuous contour or perimeter of spatially bounded
wholes. However, these spatially bounded wholes or homospatially unified figures
strike the viewer as anomalous. For certain of the saliently posed elements in the
homospatial array are at odds with settled notions of physical possibility. It is not
possible, ceteris paribus, for women to have f-holes in their backs; they would lose
too much blood.
However, in determining whether the elements in an array are physically non-
compossible, we cannot rely simply on a look at the image plus our knowledge of
science.We need to consider the context in which the image is presented and the
intentions of the image-maker in presenting it.
Why? Because there are homospatial figures with apparently physically non-
compossible elements that in virtue of their context and the intentions of their
makers are not designed to be taken metaphorically. For example, in horror films
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there are many images of entities that are physically noncompossible by the lights
of science “ for example, lizard men and ape women. But given the context of the
genre, and the evident intentions of the filmmaker, these entities are not
metaphors. In a certain sense, they are being presented as physically compossible
in a context ruled by the understandings of the horror genre.
The figures in Le Viol and Baboon and Young could be set in fictional contexts
where they were not being presented as physically noncompossible. One can
imagine science fictions in which there are pig-priests, violin-women, and mon-
sters that are part flesh and part machine.23 In order to interpret such figures
metaphorically, we must at least have grounds to believe that the image-maker is
presenting them as physically noncompossible entities and not as physically possi-
ble entities in some fantastic-fictional world that is ruled by laws different from
our own.That is, to explore these entities for metaphorical insight, one must have
reason to believe that they are being presented as physically noncompossible
rather than as fictionally possible.
Of course, apparently physically noncompossible figures may be presented in
order to serve intentions other than fiction-making.The presentation of such fig-
ures may be religiously motivated.The gods of ancient Egypt were represented as
composite figures. Some Christians continue to represent the devil as part human,
part goat, part reptile, and so on. The fundamentalist viewers of such images do
not take them to be representations of physically noncompossible entities. For
them, pictures of the devil as part man and part goat show how the devil actually
looks. Such pictures represent the physical composition of the devil from the per-
spective of their religion. Operating in a religious context, a fundamentalist
image-maker and a fundamentalist viewer do not believe that what is represented
is physically noncompossible. In their view, it is the short-sightedness of our sci-
entific outlook that leads the rest of us to think that such images represent physi-
cally noncompossible entities.
A visual metaphor rests on the shared recognition on the part of the image-
makers and the viewers that the disparate elements fused in the homospatial image
are being presented as physically noncompossible. In order to determine whether
the homospatial figure presented in the image is to be taken as representing a
physically noncompossible state of affairs, certain conditions must be met.
The first is that the image-maker believes that the image represents a physi-
cally noncompossible state of affairs and believes that in presenting the image, she
is presenting a representation of something that is physically noncompossible
(rather than something that is physically possible, religiously actual or fictionally
possible and so on). Of course, if the image-maker intends the image to be taken
metaphorically, she must also believe that the standard, intended viewer believes
that the image represents a physically noncompossible state of affairs (rather than
an actual state of affairs, a physically possible state of affairs, a state of affairs in a
certain fictional world, and so on).
Furthermore, needless to say, in order for a visual metaphor to succeed, the
standard intended viewer will in fact believe that the state of affairs represented by
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the image is physically noncompossible and that it is meant to be taken as physi-
cally noncompossible, rather than as a representation of some supernatural actual-
ity or as a state of affairs that obtains in the context of some fiction that abides by
some alternative set of laws.That is, if the viewer is to take the image metaphori-
cally, the viewer must believe that the image-maker believes the state of affairs is
physically noncompossible and that the image-maker is presenting the image as
physically noncompossible.The viewer believes that the entity in Le Viol is physi-
cally noncompossible, that Magritte believes that it is physically noncompossible,
and that Magritte presents it with the intention that it be recognized to be physi-
cally noncompossible.The viewer does not take the image to represent a monster
“ neither an existing monster nor a science fiction monster “ nor a god.
If the image-maker intends to propose a visual metaphor, then the image-
maker believes that her juxtaposition of physically noncompossible elements in a
homospatially unified array will serve as an invitation to the viewer to explore the
ways in which the noncompossible elements and their corresponding categories
illuminate each other when they are interpreted as source domains and target
domains that are related by mappings onto each other. That is, the image-maker
must believe that the homospatially unified figure and its noncompossible ele-
ments have what Ina Loewenberg calls heuristic value.24
The image-maker, in other words, intends the viewer of her visual image to
take the image as a proposal to consider the referents of the noncompossible ele-
ments and their related categories as interacting in an illuminating way. In making
the image, the image-maker believes that the juxtaposition of elements will inti-
mate a relation or fact and will encourage the viewer to notice or focus on that
fact or relation.The visual metaphor will have heuristic value in the sense that it
will facilitate the viewer™s apprehension of that fact or relation, for example, that
odalisques have violin-like curves. It is in this sense that the image-maker believes
that the physically noncompossible, homospatial image has heuristic value.
In making a visual metaphor, the image-maker believes that the image has heuris-
tic value and intends the viewer to consider the image as an invitation to consider its
heuristic value.This does not mean that the image-maker antecedently knows all of
the discoveries the viewer may make in exploring the image.Viewers may find more
connections between the elements in the image than the image-maker was aware of,
just as verbal metaphors may contain an indefinite number of resonances that no
reader, including the original author, ever fully comprehends.
The image-maker invites the viewer to make discoveries by way of saliently
posing physically noncompossible elements.The juxtaposition of physically non-
compossible elements prods the viewer to try and make some sense of the image.
The image cannot be taken as a realistic representation. However, the viewer will,
on the supposition that the image has been proffered in order to make some
point,25 attempt to negotiate it by means of another sort of interpretation. In
visual metaphors, the saliently posed juxtaposition of the noncompossible ele-
ments as well as the fact that even on an initial viewing they mutually inform each
other ideally prompts the viewer to take the image as a proposal to explore the
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image for metaphorical insight.That is, the viewer takes this as the best explana-
tion of the image-maker™s presentation of the physically noncompossible elements
in a homospatially unified entity.
Though the image-maker guides the viewer™s exploration of the image to a
certain extent, the invitation is a somewhat open one. The viewer expands the
metaphor through her own imaginative play.The viewer tests to see whether the
visual metaphor is open to what I earlier called symmetrical interpretations.The
viewer determines whether the metaphor is to be expanded only in terms of the
referents of the noncompossible elements or in terms of the categories to which
they belong.And, as with verbal metaphor, the audience explores what Lakoff and
Turner call the various “slots” of the source domain schema to see if they have
bearing on the target domain.26
Without taking a stand one way or the other on Davidson™s theory of verbal
metaphor, I think that it is clear that his position is appropriate for visual
metaphor. It makes little sense to talk about some special kind of meaning with
respect to visual metaphors since they are not propositions. They do not carry
some special encoded message for there is nothing, strictly speaking, that can
count as a code when it comes to visual metaphors. If for no other reason, this fol-
lows from the fact that visual metaphors are visual images that are not read in
terms of a code, but, rather, are recognized by looking. Nor is there a grammar or
syntax of visual metaphor; one would be hard put to set forth the conditions
under which such a metaphor would be ill formed. One does not read off the
meaning “ metaphorical or otherwise “ of a visual metaphor. Rather, one inter-
prets visual metaphors, in part in the ways suggested in the previous paragraph.
A visual metaphor is a device for encouraging insights, a tool to think with.
This is not to deny that visual metaphors can provide insight, but only that they
do so by way of having a meaning. Of verbal metaphors, Davidson writes:
What I deny is that metaphor does its work by having a special meaning, a
specific cognitive content. I do not think ¦ with Black that a metaphor
asserts or implies certain complex things by dint of a special meaning and
thus accomplishes its job of yielding an “insight.”A metaphor does its work
through intermediaries “ to suppose it can be effective only by conveying
a coded message is like thinking a joke or a dream makes some statement
which a clever interpreter can restate in plain prose. Joke or dream or
metaphor can, like a picture or a bump on the head, make us appreciate
some fact “ but not by standing for, or expressing, the fact.27
Whether this is a useful way of thinking of verbal metaphors, it is apt for the
case of visual metaphor. Visual metaphors prompt insights rather than stating
insights in a language. Visual metaphors “work through intermediaries” “ the
salient posing of physically noncompossible elements.Visual metaphors are of the
nature of what Kant called an aesthetic idea “ a representation of the imagination
that occasions much thought, without however being reduced to any definite
thought.28 That is, with visual metaphors, the image-maker proposes food for
366 ALTERNATIVE TOPICS

thought without stating any determinate proposition. It is the task of the viewer
to use the image for insight.This is not to say that the image-maker has not pro-
vided some direction for the viewer to follow. And the ingredients in the image
obviously constrain the viewer™s imaginative flights. Rather, there is no single,
fixed propositional meaning, for the visual metaphor is not a proposition.
Some commentators have criticized Davidson™s theory of verbal metaphor on
the grounds that Davidson presupposes that metaphors are reversible, whereas
they argue that they are not.29 However, as we have seen, visual, as opposed to ver-
bal, metaphors are very often susceptible to symmetrical or reversible interpreta-
tions. Magritte™s Le Viol may introduce either the thought that the face is a body
or that the body is a face. Whether a visual metaphor is symmetrical or not
depends upon whether the viewer can produce suitably constrained interpreta-
tions of the image by reversing the source domain and the target domain. The
visual metaphor is an invitation to the viewer to explore it imaginatively.And part
of that imaginative exploration involves testing to see whether the terms of the
visual metaphor can be reversed.
In presenting a visual metaphor, the image-maker intends the viewer to con-
sider it in terms of its heuristic value, that is, in terms of the ways in which the
interaction of the referents and/or categories mobilized by the figure yield
insight. Thus, a successful presentation of a visual metaphor requires that the
viewer know that the image is being proposed as an invitation to explore it for
heuristic value. The viewer is undoubtedly helped in this by the fact that the
image fuses physically noncompossible elements.This blocks the viewer™s assimila-
tion of the image as a realistic representation.The viewer must find an alternative
interpretation of the image.The viewer must suppose that the figure is not a fic-
tional inhabitant of some fantastic world or a supernatural being in some or
another theology.
Confronted by a homospatially unified figure that fuses physically noncom-
possible elements, the viewer, employing the principle of charity, seeks an inter-
pretation that will render the image intelligible. The viewer will have to be
prepared to reject religious and science-fiction interpretations. The viewer will
have to discount the possibility that the image-maker has outlandish opinions
about what there is. And the viewer will also have to determine that the image is
not simply a display of cleverness on the part of the artist.
For example, Guiseppe Arcimboldo™s 1566 painting The Librarian seems to fuse
elements in a way that suggests that the referent is part human and mostly books.
However, in this case, there does not seem to be a metaphor in the offing “ for,

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