Maps are beautiful blueprints for helping the human eye to search. Our searches may change, but the act of and the need to explore is constant. Terra Incognita, unknown land, is a term found in many ancient maps. It was used to mark unexplored territories, often in colorful, imaginative styles. Having spent the last several years in self-imposed map history research, I have internalized many of the themes surrounding the rich artistic culture of cartography. Its subjects are as wide and vast as the oceans it has worked so hard to chart. By focusing on one unifying concept, Terra Incognita, I have built a body of work that has given me a clear focus but also the liberty to explore the boundaries of my medium.
This collection can be appreciated on two distinct levels. The first level explores the concept of the past, present, and future of Exploration. Through map imagery, I connect explorers from the Age of Discovery to YOU with your smart phone and your GPS, as virtual, social networking, and armchair explorers. I think of the connections between the two mismatched groups of people. Vasco de Gama, Balboa, Magellan, Columbus, Vespucci, they struck out into the unknown to brave nature, violence, disease, and shipwreck in search of the big gold, or fame, or both. Today, we safely explore our own Terra Incognitas using computerized symbology that stems directly from the art and science of cartography. We let ourselves be directed by these universal symbols, feeling safely removed from the storms and sea monsters that the brave navigators knew they were facing. But how safe is our exploration, really? Maybe our couches and smart phones give us a false sense of comfort while we light out into the territories of social networking and online dating. These two worlds are physically very different, but in concept, they have much in common. Exploration has the potential to change the fabric of life. Columbus and Magellan helped to found a new continent that opened up and transformed the world. The far corners of our physical planet have been discovered. Are we fortunate to have been handed these new virtual worlds to explore or will the big unknown consequences of our searches change the very nature of what it means to be human?
The second level of appreciation for this collection is more aesthetically oriented. Mosaic is an art deeply attached to materials. Stone, glass, ceramic, recycled or purchased; the mosaicist is always aware and respectful of her materials. By applying color and material into the legend or key of the map, I am asking the viewer to contemplate, to study those choices in color and texture, and to follow where they might lead, not to a particular place, but in the imagination.
Click on the images below to explore the individual mosaics in greater depth.