To help understand where these works comes from, it may be useful to know that McCollum has designed a system to produce unique “shapes.” This system allows him to make enough unique shapes for every person on the planet to have one of their own. It also allows him to keep track of the shapes, so as to insure that no two will ever be alike. Previous parts of the project have been monoprints, embroideries and rubber stamps.
McCollum’s reasoning for the quantity of shapes comes from following the present rate of birth. It is generally estimated that the world population will “peak” sometime during the middle of the present century, and then possibly begin to decline. How many people will be alive at this peak are estimated at between 8 billion and 20 billion people, depending upon what factors are considered and who is doing the considering. The most recent estimate published by the United Nations puts the figure at around 9.1 billion in the year 2050. To make certain that his system will be able to accommodate everyone, McCollum has organized it to produce over 31,000,000,000 different shapes, which is more than the highest population estimates might require. For the time being, a potential of around 214,000,000 shapes have been reserved within the system for creative experimentation. These can be used for many different purposes, not only for fine art and design projects, but also for various social practices: as gifts, awards, identity markers, emblems, insignias, logos, toys, souvenirs, educational tools, and so forth.
McCollum is presently using a home computer to construct Adobe Illustrator ‘vector’ files that allow the shapes to be produced in many possible ways. The shapes can be printed graphically as silhouettes or outlines, in any size, color or texture, using all varieties of graphics software; or, the files can be used by rapid prototyping machines and computer-numerically-controlled (CNC) equipment such as routers, laser and waterjet cutters to build, carve, or cut the shapes from wood, plastic, metal, stone, and other materials. For the “Shapes to Paint”, all the shapes were cut by hand on a scroll saw by Horace and Noella Varnum, founders of Artasia, in Sedgwick, Maine.
To see which “Shapes” are available, click on “view additional images” and scroll through the available “Shapes to Paint”.