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New Collage: Map III

abstract map collage in turquoise, tan, green and orange with compass rose

Map III, mixed media collage on Rives BFK paper, 5.25 x 6 inches

ingredients: map fragments, watercolor crayons, ephemera, joss paper, image transfer

29 JANUARY, 2018

Map Love, and a New Collage

I have always loved maps. Something about the symbolism, I guess, is what first attracted me. I didn't know what symbolism was then, but I understood that those lines, colors, and shapes stood for something that existed in the real world. Could that squiggly blue line really be a river? And those other lines, roads? Was that huge blue shape an ocean, so many miles away from where I sat gazing at this piece of paper?

Maps captured my imagination, as I tried to picture the physical places each shape corresponded to. Looking at a map could lead me on an imaginary journey to wherever I wished. I always enjoy using them in my work, such as the new collage, above.

13th century map of Great Britain

Great Britain as drawn by Matthew Paris in 1250 AD, a monk and historian who lived in St Alban's.  British Library / Via

The map above shows what the people of Great Britain thought it looked like in the 13th century.  Not very accurate, but still, it does provide some useful information. I can't for the life of me figure out how anyone could tell, simply by looking at their surroundings, how the landscape would appear from the air. If I were asked to draw a scale map of the county I live in, I'm sure it would have little in common with reality.

Maps like this give us a unique window into how people of this time period viewed themselves and their world. Later, methods for insuring greater correlation with the real proportions were discovered, but I will leave that for another post.

The Narrative Qualities of Maps

fragment of beautiful medieaval map the Catalan Atlas

The Catalan Atlas (fragment)

The Catalan Atlas is the most important Catalan map of the medieval period. It was produced by the Majorcan cartographic school and is attributed to Cresques Abraham (also known as “Abraham Cresques”), a Jewish book illuminator who was self-described as being a master of the maps of the world as well as compasses. (Wikimedia commons)

drawing of traders on the silk road from the Catalan Atlas

The atlas is covered with with captivating details like this group of travelers on the Silk Road.

The Catalan Atlas, one of the best-known maps from medieval Europe, was quite an accomplishment for its day. It is prized for its artistry as much as anything else, though the fact that they got everything in more or less the right place is certainly impressive. What draws us to it is the fanciful illustration and beautiful colors. It seems to tell a story, to stimulate the imagination as much as it reveals to us what was known of the world in 1375. That narrative quality, I think, is why I love to use maps in my work.

abstract map collage in blue, orange, and metallic gold with stitching

collage of little girl with wing writing with map background

Map I  (above) is part of an ongoing series in which I use maps a a main design element.

The white map in Flight Path (left) is  entirely made up, inspired by the stained page of an old book.

small abstract map collage in light blue, orange, and metallic gold

Map II

The Artistry of Maps

"It is as though human beings are incapable of inscribing lines, angles, squares, and circles without becoming engulfed in the aesthetics of pattern and design....the aesthetic impulse can aquire a life of its own and develop at the expense of accuracy and even readabilty. Yi-Fu Tuan, Maps and Art: Identity and Utopia, from World Views: Maps and Art by Robert Silberman

Lucky for me, I'm not a cartographer. In my work, I don't have to worry about conveying any accurate spatial information to anyone. I use maps in my art simply for the associations they create in our imaginations and in our memories - for the stories they tell, the journies they suggest, and for the beauty their forms, lines, and colors lend to the overall composition.

mixed media collage woman in fetal position floating in ocean with rising moon behind her

Self-Birthing, mixed media collage

There are many artists who use maps in their work, often in original and surprising ways. I will be exploring some of these artists' unique and inspiring work in future posts. I'd also like to hear your thoughts on the subject.  Would you be interested in learning more about this? If you're an artist, have you ever used maps in your artwork? If so, what was your experience like?

Here's hoping you have a great week ahead of you, my friends! Wishing you peace, love, and art!


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