Whilst maps mark the ‘where we are’, the ‘where we’ve been’, perhaps even the ‘where we’re going’; maps are also powerfully expressive and aesthetic.

They are beautiful.

Artists have used the characteristics of maps in a bewildering array of creative ways. They’ve used the content of maps and the colour of maps; they’ve used maps as starting points and maps as disruptions or distractions, challenges to be overcome when image making. They’ve uses maps as tone, as light and dark, and as texture…

And in doing so they’ve created maps with new resonances, new messages, and new power.

Joyce Kozloff: Navigational Triangles, DC Moore, New York, 2010. “Long before Google Maps or GPS, seafarers used navigational triangles to pinpoint their location and to chart their course in relation to celestial bodies and the earth’s poles.”
. “In an era of global culture, artists are increasingly exploring maps as both image and cypher to address such themes as borders and boundaries, identity and colonialism, journeys – both real and imagined, memory and nostalgia, and tourism and travel.” 
Ed Fairburn draws fantastic portraits of people, on old maps.
Most people are familiar with the popular “I (Love) NY” logo from the successful New York 1970s tourism campaign. Still a strong and recognizable symbol to this day, artist Viviane Rombaldi Seppey here harnesses the power of this advertisement by illustrating a realistic heart across one of these promotional maps. Tiny, intricate lines blend together to form the arteries and chambers of a not-so-cartoony heart, which hovers just above the island of Manhattan.
Nikki Rosato creates human forms by cutting away at maps, leaving only roads and rivers behind. Here’s her artist statement: Our physical bodies are beautiful structures full of detail, and they hold the stories that haunt and mold our lives. The lines on a road map are beautifully similar to the lines that cover the surface of the human body. In my most recent work involving maps, as I remove the landmasses from the silhouetted individuals I am further removing the figure’s identity, and what remains is a delicate skin-like structure. Through this process, specific individuals become ambiguous and hauntingly ghost-like, similar to the memories they represent.
Another piece by Nikki Rosato
Matthew Cusick’s Many Rivers, 2009 Inlaid maps, acrylic, on panel
Another Matthew Cusick drawing using maps as his palette…
cusick m
Matthew Cusick’s ‘Geronimo’ 2007 Inlaid maps on panel
close up
Close-up of ‘Geronimo’
map art 3
Fernando VincenteAntipodas’ , illustration on map

Now, where are my drawing pencils and old maps… IMG_5900 (3)


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