Language Learning

View of Sonia Almeida’s Pockets and Lies, 2020, in the exhibition “Standard Error (SE),” Tørreloft, Copenhagen, Denmark, 2020.PHOTO BRIAN KURE/COURTESY THE ARTIST AND TØRRELOFT, COPENHAGEN, DENMARK

In her paintings, Sonia Almeida often draws imagery from typographic sources such as Roman letters or a medieval anthropomorphic alphabet. The Portuguese-born, Boston-based artist is fascinated by linguistic rules and systems, which she explores in a rather associative manner. A bilingual professor of printmaking and book arts at Brandeis and the mother of a dyslexic child, Almeida spends much of her time thinking about language, and produces works that feature bright colors and unconventional formats loosely inspired by books. Athulya Aravind, an assistant professor of linguistics at MIT and codirector of its Language Acquisition Lab, visited Almeida in her studio outside Boston. As an expert in verbal learning, Aravind is fascinated by the human capacity to form language communities. The two women discussed the links between writing and visual art as communication tools as well as the relationship between grammatical understanding and cultural belonging.

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