Essay to accompany the exhibit Beauty and Persuasion: The Art of Milton Glaser. Held at the Linder Gallery, Keystone College, March 22-May 2, 2003.
It is curious how often we remember our first exposure to certain artists and their work. I recall first learning about Milton Glaser through a poster he created for the International Design Conference in 1985. It hung above my drafting table at a print shop where I worked in central Florida, and it had a quote from Goethe about the nature of truth and illusion. Though the poster was not typical of most of Glaser’s work, I admired it all the same. I was working beneath this poster one day when the space shuttle Challenger, also atypically, disappeared in a tragically beautiful bloom of smoke outside my window.
In the time since then, I haven’t thought about that poster very much, though I never have forgotten it. I haven’t thought about space shuttles very much either, but now, seventeen years later, both they and the poster are forced into my consciousness again. This time, I watch through the window of my television as Columbia vanishes in the sky above east Texas. I am working on this essay as it happens, and I think of Challenger, and I think of that poster.
I am reminded there are times when an illusion can persuade us to believe we are witnessing the truth, and times when the truth must persuade us that we aren’t observing an illusion, or worse, a deception. In his many accomplishments as a designer, Milton Glaser has continually sought to do the latter, a daunting task in a skeptical age. That his work accomplishes this feat with dignity and beauty makes it all the more unlikely. It is the essence, I think, of all that is good–in every sense of that word–about the field of design today.