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.