MFA Installation

In 1994, I built my MFA Installation at East Tennesee State University in Johnson City, TN. My degree was in Graphic Design Illustration, and my advisors were open to my incorporation of hand lettering into much of the work. The exhibit, The Face of Humanity, attempted to educate my audience about the ever increasing growth in the population of humans on the earth. In all my research, I found that scientists, environments and politicians were all coming back to the same basic truth, postulated by Malthus over 200 years ago: there are three limitations on the growth of a population--war, famine and disease. But we now fight wars without losing a whole generation of young men, we've invented fertilizers and pesticides to feed more and more people, and scientists are discovering many ways to nip each new potential pestilence in the bud. Yet all of us--the humans--are having a huge impact on the vitality of the planet, from the complete loss of many species of plants and animals to the rising sea levels and odd weather patterns caused by climate change.

The first exhibit was installed in the Slocumb Gallery at ETSU, and then in other galleries in Bozeman, Montana and Linville Falls, NC and at the international calligraphy conference in Edwardsville, IL. Portions of the exhibit have been shown in many other venues.

The installation fills a large gallery with four basic aspects. First, a timeline circles the gallery with a graph showing the steady increase in our numbers. It begins at 1 CE at about 200 million people, and doesn't really begin to increase drastically until it reaches 1 billion about 800. After that, the growth becomes exponential, and it has tripled in my lifetime to around 7.5 billion. The text on the timeline is photocopied from the many books and articles I read in researching this project.

Second, a group of banners hangs from the ceiling. Written with gouache on frosted Mylar, they carry the words of many scientists and philosophers who have written about this. Most are in brush written Romans, and one is in varying weights of a Neuland/Lithos style.

Above the timeline is a series of portraits which show the psychological emergence of human consciousness, from barely understanding the fundamentals of life to more realistic images, ending with machines and robots that have face-like aspects. There is also a group of larger paintings, each with portraits accompanied by texts showing various aspects of the social issues related to overpopulation.

Finally, I invited friends from all over to send postcards with environmental thoughts, and the response was overwhelming. More than 200 of these postcards are bound in an accordion book, which sits on a shelf under the timeline.

Below are some images that give an overview of the installation.

MFA Installation Genesis

An abstract face with Adam and Eve in the eyes, and the text from Genesis that commands us to "Be Fruitful and Multiply."

MFA Installation Gallery View

As you enter the space, you see the beginning of the timeline, the paintings and the book of postcards.

MFA Installation Gallery View 1

The timeline and the book turn a corner. . .

MFA Installation Gallery View 3

The timeline ends with the exponential growth showing on the scale. With such a long horizontal scale, one can really see how quickly we have added population.

MFA Installation Emerging

The smaller paintings, sewn in groups of threes and framed for a later installation, show the emergence of human consciousness.

MFA Installation Three Fools

And yet we don't really see the world beyond our own little community.

MFA Installation ZPG banner

One of the dozen banners in the center of the space. This one uses a style based on Neuland and Lithos typefaces with ever increasing density to express the idea.

MFAInstallation Harrison banner

One of the dozen banners that hang from the ceiling in the center of the installation. Each is about 8 feet tall.


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MFAInstallation Gallery View 2

. . .and continue on, with more people on the graph bbelow and more realistic illustrations.

MFA Installation What is Relevant

What is Relevant is that we are destroying our planet. This plea from Isaac Asimov to fellow scientists is superimposed over a man with no eyes.

MFA Installation Look Right, Look Left, Look Up

We begin to understand the world around us.

MFA Installation Surprised

These folks are amazed at their good fortune. They are alive, and they have good teeth.

MFA Installation Two Sons

Many parents want sons, accepting girls but hoping for sons. After all, sons will take over the hard work from their fathers.

MFA Installation Not Me

Blind, ignorant, skeptical. We each live in our own worlds.

MFA Installation Plugged

Faces are incorporated into many of our devices, and our superheroes are cartoon characters.

MFA Installation Toxic Garden

We alter the planet in many ways to feed the billions, but at what cost?