This year has brought all sorts of projects– finishing a picture book, two murals, comics, a teaching opportunity, and more books ideas. But March brought in something entirely new: an invitation to illustrate the centerpiece of an exhibition at Brown University that opens next week on September 9th!
Nathaniel Walker, a PhD student in architecture at Brown, contacted me in the spring to discuss his new favorite book, Ignis: The Central Fire, by Didier de Chousy. Written in 1883, the science fiction novel is about the industrial exploitation of the Earth’s central fire by a group of English investors. Filled with daisy fields, robot slave revolts, and a train shaped temple/city hall built over the central fire, Nathan was inspired by the book to put together a show on Futurism as part of his dissertation. And my job would be to draw the city of Industria from the novel!
But where do you begin when designing a Victorian Utopia? And what makes a city look like “the future” to us today? I started with the whimsical architectural drawings of Winsor McCay and photos from the Paris Exposition of 1889. The Eiffel Tower, built as the main entrance to the Fair, was what a few French architects had in mind when they envisioned the future.
Iron and glass would be central components, along with borrowing some domes and towers from ”Oriental” architecture in the exotic East. Onion domes and Taj-Mahal towers meant “future” to Europeans in 1899.
I also discovered the drawings of Albert Robida and looked at a lot of Steampunk art. Flying machines with happy couples and lots of balmy steam would be primary components! Notice how the vehicles are open-air with no visible system of propulsion? Apparently both aluminum and helium had recently come into public awareness, so it was assumed that soon people would be sailing along with their sweetheart in their new aluminum flying carriages. Looks like fun!
The exhibition opens September 9th in Providence, Rhode Island at the Bell Gallery in the List Center at Brown University. More information soon. Next up: Industria Sketches. Stay tuned!