Artist: Lisa R. Nelson
Year of Origin: 2020
Description and relation to Open Call: I love maps. I have always been inexplicably drawn to them. I love what they say about a place, its history, and how it fits into our worldview. I love how they unlock the secrets to navigating our way through our world as well as finding our place within it. Early explorers certainly knew this to be true as they ventured out from their safe havens. They courageously circumnavigated the vast watery expanses of our globe in their fragile wooden ships. Early maps of the “newly-discovered” New World and the “Dark Continent” were so crudely drawn and strangely embellished. Yet, even after our entire planet has been completely explored and surveyed, these continents still do not appear as they truly are.
In my work, I am exploring the relationship between the global map as we have collectively imagined it for nearly 500 years in comparison with alternative projections. Which map best depicts our undulating coastlines and our cerulean oceans? Which looks right to us? Which looks graphically appealing? And which overcomes the sheer insanity of illustrating a sphere as a flat proportional image? I consider the conventional beauty of the longstanding Mercator projection, which projects such familiarity even when continents are nudged about. I depict the bizarre Rorschach test that is the Peirce Quincuncial projection with the North Pole as its central axis, from which our continents gracefully waltz around it. I examine the Gall-Peters Projection, to experience the continents in correct proportion. Alas, finally, Brazil looks bigger than Greenland. And Africa triumphantly dwarfs dainty Europe as it sits front and center as the land mass that all other continents flow from.
My work explores these issues through the creation of each map while also considering what makes each uniquely beautiful, realizing that they are all flawed in their own way but that they speak to our desire to understand and see the entire scope of our world with clear eyes.