painting in the foyer of McGraw-Hill

Lobby Scene (top) and Detail Photograph (bottom).

Detail of McGraw-Hill painting.

The McGraw-Hill Companies (Columbus, OH) Lobby; Eighteen canvas panels, total size: 77" x 173" x 2"; 2001.

Knowledge is the understanding gained through experience or study. It is the sum of what has been perceived, discovered, or learned. The eighteen paintings that comprise this work attempt to capture “knowledge” with the portrayal of accomplishments made possible through discovery, learning and experience.

The physical structure of the piece adds geometric interest to the wall space by dividing it into different shapes and colors using eighteen canvases. The size and spacing of the canvases and their juxtaposition with white space gives the overall space a feeling of activity. This allows the viewer to apply his own knowledge and experience through the contemplation of form, image, color and space.
Each canvas depicts different applications of knowledge in a variety of fields: business, science, art, architecture, history, sports, personal achievement. I also tied in scenes that are specific to Ohio to give the work a sense of locale.

Knowledge from its earliest times is represented in pre-language cave paintings. The art on this panel is at once historical and modern, as well as musical and visual. This depiction gave me the opportunity to sign my own name as a hand print.

The building blocks of knowledge - language, literature and math - are represented in two squares, one the image of a child‘s alphabet block, the other a numerical block displaying the number zero, a fundamental building block of math.

Another fundamental tool of modern knowledge is depicted through a very large computer key on one of the smaller canvases. The computer and the Internet are expanding the access to knowledge and the sharing of ideas, tying the world closer together.

In the area of science I chose to portray Marie Curie as a symbol of every expanding knowledge that has taken us through incredible advances in medicine from early disease treatment and prevention to scientific breakthroughs with DNA and mapping the human genome.

Images of Abraham Lincoln and Martin Luther King capture the essence of human achievement from a historic perspective as does the exploration of space as show here with our tiny earthly sphere as seen from outer space, beautiful yet fragile. Selecting these images was extremely difficult because there were so many people and events to choose from in world and American history.

Other panels display images of sports - a colorful tangle of bodies engaged in competition; and business - the interaction of people working toward a common goal.

Scenes tied to Ohio, while localizing the paintings, also reflect the application of knowledge in this area. To represent agricultural knowledge I chose a large landscape of typical rolling Ohio farmland. The Cliff Dwellings and serpent mounds echo the proud heritage of our American Indian civilizations. Another panel is devoted to the river its significance to the exploration and development of the Columbus area. The great explorer the city was named after, Christopher Columbus further evidences the knowledge gained through exploration.

Finally, one of my favorite places in Columbus is the park where one of Georges Seurat‘s paintings is recreated in shrubbery called “The Topiary Garden” This is a classic example of applying our knowledge through a new way of thinking. I found the entire concept amusing and very entertaining.

When seen as a whole, I hope these eighteen paintings give the viewer a feel for the expansive and varied application of knowledge as depicted through human achievement. Through knowledge we gain understanding, and through understanding will come peace, both individual and collective.


©2024 Trena McNabb