The infinitesimal and the infinite

I think perhaps that The Incredible Shrinking Man, a 1957 film about a man who shrinks to nothing following an encounter with a radioactive cloud, had an indelible impact on a portion of my visual aesthetic. I know that The Incredible Shrinking Man was one of the first movies I ever saw (what were my parents thinking?). No doubt due to my tender years, I took the pseudo-profundities uttered by Grant Williams, the actor who plays the shrinking man as, well, profundities.

Death Valley Badlands by Harold Davis
Death Valley Badlands © Harold Davis

It’s hard to resist lines like this one: “So close — the infinitesimal and the infinite. But suddenly, I knew they were really the two ends of the same concept. The unbelievably small and the unbelievably vast eventually meet — like the closing of a gigantic circle.”

To this day, I enjoy playing with scale in my imagery. It’s one of my goals to create iconography that compels at least a second glance, and using indeterminate scale is one way to get there.

Sand Dollar by Harold Davis
Sand Dollar © Harold Davis

For example, the Sand Dollar shown above is captured at near microscopic level. But the vista of badlands in Death Valley (far above) could easily be an enlargement of the pattern in the shell. You see, it’s all a circle, with the large and vast ultimately smaller than the small and tiny—or vice versa.

For the record, the other movie I remember well from my early years was Some Like It Hot. My brother and I were supposed to be asleep in the back of the family station wagon at the drive-in movie theater. Now what artistic influence did Some Like It Hot have?

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