Francesca Berrini: ‘With Us Or Against Us’, torn map collage on canvas, 12 x 9 in.

Maps are instruments, but in the eye of map aficionados they can also be works of art. That makes it difficult for at least this aficionado to decide whether to be horrified or fascinated by these works of art – cartographic art, yes, but reassembled from strips, slivers and patches purposely cut out of vintage maps and atlases by the artist. Maybe it’s best to let Francesca Berrini, the Portland (OR) artist who makes these maps, explain the why and the how of her work:

“Since the start of my exploration into mapmaking, I have become increasingly fascinated by the intersection of manmade and natural forms made visible in maps and atlases. The combination of the colorful geometry of political divisions laid over the organic forms of the continents is as incongruous in appearance as our actual physical interventions in the natural landscape. In looking at a series of maps of the same area throughout time it is easy to see the fluid movement of people and their political structures.”

“While human boundaries and routes of travel shift and vary, features of the landscape seem to remain solid underneath the flow of humanity. Maps are always only a glimpse of a moment in history, a self portrait of the time in which they are made. And yet, maps consistently reflect the influence that humans have had in altering their own surroundings. Whether calculated in the slow growth of reclaimed land in Japan or the Netherlands, or in the accidental change of geological features such as the creation of the Salton Sea or the erasing of coastal marshlands on the gulf coast, our cumulative effect adds up to astounding changes in our natural environs.”

“I see my work as a small reflection of this attempt to chart and control our surroundings. A careful imitation of how the human hand is made visible on the landscape as viewed by the seemingly all knowing eye of the mapmaker. In each piece, I attempt to create an illusion of factuality and to capture a nostalgia for the idea of far away places. Both subtly by the combination of paper qualities, and overtly by the introduction of images and text, it is the initial illusion of actual information that makes the eye accept my distorted combinations at first glance.”

I still don’t know whether to be horrified. I guess that depends on how nice the original maps were. But I am fascinated. More information – and more of Berrini’s maps – on this page of the Viveza art gallery in Seattle (WA), which I learned about through this entry (which includes a reference to this selfsame blog) on Joe Alterio’s blog on “illustration, comix, design, animation, and other bouts of total awesomeness”.