I’ve always been interested in human development—how we’ve changed so much in our evolutionary history. What differentiates us from other animals. What makes us unique? I always read about the opposable thumb, walking upright, and the use of tools as the things that make us different. The one thing that’s central to human evolution is the bigger brain. If you compare the skull of another primate to the human skull, the shape is very different because of the growth, called the cortex, at the top of the brain. The cortex has grown immensely, like a melon.
What good is it to have a really big brain? It means you have a big head. What good is a big brain and a big head if you can’t be born? The birth canal, the pelvis, is what really makes the big brain possible. Its ability to flex and give birth to such a big brain is the most important development in human evolution. If it can’t fit through that tunnel, forget about it. Everything about our evolution comes down to the architecture, size, and flexibility of the female pelvis—that is the key to human development.
Having this idea in mind, I started looking at the skeleton of the female pelvis. I’ve always loved a female pelvis, but I fell in love with the skeleton of it, and it’s become my landscape for the past few months. I’ve been making lots of images of it. It looks funny like a crazy pair of sunglasses, or a hat worn at a royal wedding. I see the fascination Georgia O’Keefe had with the skulls—the bone whiteness of it. I’ve been juxtaposing those images with my other favorite landscape—the brain, with all the folds. These two landscapes together tell the story of human evolution in a way that’s meaningful to me. They are landscapes that are visually evolving, and can be explored in different ways with different materials—in drawing and in sculpture. I’ve been thinking about an animated sculpture, depicting the birth of the brain—coming out of the pelvis and going back in.
The female pelvis has to do many different things—pass the big brain through, stand up vertically, and allow vertical propulsion. You have to be able to run and jump, so it can’t be too wide—otherwise, you can’t run. If it’s too small—if a female is much smaller than the male—that’s not going to work either. In some species it works, but not with us, not with our big brains. That’s why, in human evolution, the size and weight of men and women has been getting closer and closer. By now, in our evolutionary history, there’s not much difference between male and female, as compared to whales, for example—the male being three times bigger than the female. Take a look at the female pelvis and its role in human evolution—I think it’s been overlooked. Tell me what you think.