Dot-to-Dots and Murals, Larger than Life


A lot of the traffic to this blog comes from Google searches that have nothing to do with cross-cultural issues. That’s the case for visitors who come to “Listening: Connecting the Dots” because they’re interested in connect-the-dot pictures. I know this this happens because of how many click through to Whitney Waller’s piece of art.

I understand. Dot-to-dots are fun. And they’re really fun when they’re really big. Take for instance, the largest one in the world. It was created by Phil Hansen in 2018 and contains 52,901 dots, shattering the old record by more than 43,000. The subject of Hansen’s record-breaking creation is a Native American named Big Head, as photographed by Edward Curtis in 1905.

“I was drawn to that older face,” Hansen tells “I liked that kind of skin, that texture. It’s the classic image of Native Americans many of us have—a person who looks wise.” But Hansen soon discovered that there is often more to a “classic image” than is first apparent.

“There I was making the piece, when I read that Edward Curtis was looked on poorly by some people because he would edit his photographs to make native people look more ‘native.’ He’d edit out things like clocks, or have people wear headdresses or beaded clothing from a different tribe if they didn’t have any.” This led Hansen to connect the dots in his own background. “I began to realize,” he says, “that I grew up in a culture that edited Native Americans. And I was a product of it.”

Hansen’s relationship with began with his 2013 TED Talk, “Embrace the Shake.” In it he describes how, as an art student devoted to pointillism, he developed a hand tremor, the result of permanent nerve damage. Initially, this caused him to walk away from art but then later led him to the notion that “embracing a limitation could actually drive creativity.” This brought about art in new and unexpected formats, for example, drawing on Starbuck’s cups, painting with hamburger grease . . . and constructing a huge do-to-dot image).

Learning about Hansen’s art got me looking for other bigger-than-life artistic endeavors, and my search did not go unrewarded. Here are some of those I found.

For starters, there’s the world’s largest outdoor mural, painted on grain silos by 22 artists in Incheon, South Korea.

Wichita is home to the world’s largest acrylic mural by a single artist, painted by Armando Minjarez, who immigrated to the US from Mexico in 2001. Minjarez also used grain bins as his canvas, portraying the Mexican laborers who built the train tracks in Wichita 100 years ago.

And then there’s the headquarters of Cacau Show, a chocolate company in Sao Paulo, Brazil, which has been transformed into a giant chocolate bar. Painted by a group led by Brazilian Eduardo Kobra, the image pays tribute to the harvesters of cocoa beans and is the world’s largest spray-painted mural by a team.

Kate Torgovnick May, “How Do You Make the World’s Biggest Connect-the-Dots?”,
July 24, 2018)

[photo: “Big Head [B],” by Edward Curtis, Library of Congress, public domain]


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