Running the numbers | Little pieces make up the big picture

1.14 million brown paper bags are used in the United States every hour, 240,000 plastic bags are used every 10 seconds, and there are 2.4 million pieces of plastic in the ocean. Those are not just statistics, but artwork to artist and photographer Chris Jordan. Jordan’s work is on display at the Amarillo Museum of Art. On Oct. 23, Jordan came to Amarillo to give a talk about his exhibit, “Running the Numbers.” The work explores the phenomenon of American consumerism.

“Running the Numbers” looks at contemporary American culture through the lens of statistics. Jordan’s work depicts the amount of mass consumption in the United States on an hourly, daily, weekly and annual basis. He manipulates images in order to help people visualize unimaginable statistics. Jordan’s presentation at the opening of the exhibit addressed how America’s mass consumption has led people to lose touch with the environment they are destroying. He said he uses his artwork to make the issue more tangible and to help people understand and grieve over what they have lost. “The only thing we have to connect with the enormity of the situation is statistics,” he said. “We cannot comprehend the millions or tens of millions or tens of billions. “Nothing registers. There is no feeling, and if we can’t feel these issues, we become disconnected from them.”Several AC photography majors attended Jordan’s talk and said his use of images stunned them.

PHOTOS BY ALMA BUSTAMANTE | The Ranger Chris Jordan’s “Running the Numbers” exhibit is on display at the Amarillo Museum of Art through Jan. 3.
Chris Jordan’s “Running the Numbers” exhibit is on display at the Amarillo Museum of Art through Jan. 3.

“It’s just amazing the impact he makes with the number of how many things we go through in a day, and in minutes, and the way he depicts them into an actual photo,” said Tasha Thorn. Another photography major, Esther Perkins, said, “His work and talk were eye-opening and mind-boggling. Until we visually see how much is used, we never really realize it.” The students noted that Jordan’s art brought out strong emotions. “His artwork moved me and made me realize the amount and number of things we actually use,” Perkins said. “It’s really crazy how much is consumed every five minutes.” “My wish for this work is that it will help us feel something about this global phenomena that is so hard to comprehend,” Jordan told the crowd. “We have lost touch with our world.” He noted that if his work upsets people, it can prompt them to take action. “Grief is a doorway,” he said. “If we step through it together, that will be the radical transformation of consciousness.” “Running the Numbers” will be on display through Jan. 3.

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