Four-in-Art · Quilts · Something to Think About

Map Musings

4-in-art_3Since the quarterly reveal date for our Four-In-Art is coming up in a couple of days, I thought it was high time to sit down and think about this new overall theme of Urban, and the specific quarterly theme of Maps.

Front Page TM

While we love the old maps, shown above on the front page of our family’s  travel blog, we all depend on recently updated maps to find our way around.  I read somewhere (and of course I can’t find it now,) that at some point in history, maps were kept only for those who had money or a position, guaranteeing them power over the masses who toiled in medieval fields.  For to hold a map, and to read it, is to understand your place in the world and how you relate to it.

SM Aerial Map Quilt

(Alicia Merritt, Green and Pleasant Land)

In a section of  Nicholas Carr’s book The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains, he writes about how maps develop:

“We progress from the infant’s egocentric, purely sensory perception of the world to the young adult’s more abstract and objective analysis of experience.”  Children’s drawings of maps advance as 1) simple topographical relationships are presented, without regard for perspective or distances, then 2) intellectural realism evolves connecting what is known with the proportional relationships, then 3) a visual realism appears.

Carr recounts that first maps were rudimentary, then realistic, then scientific in both precision and abstraction.  In addition, maps expressed ideas: ” ‘The intellectural process of transforming experience in space to abstraction of space is a revolution in modes of thinking,’ writes Vincent Virga, an expert on cartography affiliated with the Library of Congress.”

TV Map of USA

While no one under the age of 40 will remember this, once it was common when someone was coming to your house, for them to call you with the question, “How do I get to your house?”  Then we’d detail for them the streets to turn on and the landmarks to notice so they could arrive at our home.  Then came MapQuest, then Google Maps, then maps on our phones where can follow the little blue dots, then the aggravation with Apple’s Maps, proving again that he who holds an accurate map has real power.

Nighttime Map over USA

While this is a blurry shot of a city from an airplane, the first maps were of the heavens–of stars and planets and their movement.

LG Aerial Map Quilt

(Alicia Merrett, Canal Country)

Only later did it invert, so that maps became aerial views of the earth and its landmarks.

Creative Class Workers by Census Map(from the Santa Monica Patch: type in your USA city and see what you see)

Thiebaud Levee FarmWayne Theibaud, Levee Farms

Land Patterns from the air

Don’t we all have multiples of this photo on our cameras?  Aren’t we all amazed by the patterns on our earth, invisible to us as we drive/move/walk around at ground level?

Capturing a View National Portrait Gallery

(view towards the Archives, taken from the National Portrait Gallery, Washington, D.C.)

Maps can also be a window on our lives.

ESE Life Map 1a

I once had a class do Life Maps, where they depicted an aspect of their life, wrote a paper about it, and presented the map to the class.  This was my sample map of my education.  In writing in my art journal last night about maps, I began to realize that maps could also freeze time, evoke a memory.  Unlike my other Four-in-Arters, who seem to be charging ahead, I’ve been at a loss about what to make, how to proceed.  But after sitting down and writing about it, gathering pictures of maps and ideas, I am now creating my own map of where to go with this project.


We are welcoming four new members this year, so the logo, which originally meant four artists, now has — at the suggestion of one of our group — changed to mean the four quarterly challenges we make. We reveal a new over-arching theme in August, then in November, February, April and August we make quilts around that theme, with smaller “subset themes” to guide us.  We hope you’ll come back on November 1st to take a quilt art tour, as the eight of us interpret our current theme of Urban/Maps.