In his Ars Poetica, the Roman author Horace noted that the ideal epic never begins “in the egg”, but instead “hurries to the action, and snatches the listener into the middle of things”. This sensorial immersion straight into the thick of it can likewise be felt in the drama of Dutch Golden Age still-life paintings, where it often appears as if the viewer has stumbled into a feast in which the dinners nibbled a bit, and then mysteriously vanished. Considered as Memento Mori, or reminders of the fleetingness of life and things, these works serve as both a temptation of, and a warning on, the embarrassment of riches. The World in 10 Parts, 2015-6, a large-scale mixed-media work by Dustin Yellin, likewise casts visitors into the middle of a lavish world gone awry; however, instead of focusing on personal over indulgence, today’s world of conspicuous consumption, and its logical conclusion, environmental collapse due to over exploitation, is on parade.
In this saga, 10-glass steles depict a landscape that reads from left to right. In parallel movement, this setting begins at altitude featuring mountains with glacial snowcaps, which give way to more temperate zones at lower elevations, which break down, in turn, into tropical islands in the sea. Global in scope, the work ends at a mythic edge of the world; there, a torrent falls off into the unknown. People toiling amongst this vivacious, yet near ruinous habitat plumb the altitudes and depths of all human labor; however, this avalanche of souls is matched by an ominous crisis in which the ice melts, the seas rise, and humanity leaves the stage. While the final drop off could be read as a tongue-in-cheek slight to “Flat-Earthers”, it could likewise be a call to come together, and collectively end all of our follies—before it is too late to do so.