Data + Design Project

Exploring the Natural World, Painted on Maps

Wednesday 06.19.2013 , Posted by
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Do you have old maps lying around your home? Why not utilize them as surfaces for art? Vancouver based Paul Morstad decided to use maps for his paintings of various animals from the natural world. Looking at maps as artifacts of human endeavor and an empirical grid to represent land, Morstad hopes to reveal the ambivalence and struggle in the cohabitation of humans and the natural world.

See Also Two Superb, Hand-Drawn Maps of London

Morstad’s work is influenced strongly by natural sciences and some former naturalist artists such as John James Audubon and James Fenwick Lansdowne. His mixed media paintings combine elements of collage, water color, gouache and oil. Each unique piece illustrates the diversity of the natural world and includes animals from cranes to whales, and owls to toucans. Regarding his artistic process, Morstad says:

“The dendritic process that leads me from one painting to the next is mostly inspired by the old charts and abandoned objects I come across as well as the challenges I encounter in the act of painting a given piece. This process allows me a broader exploration of the themes of migration, encroachment, ecological decay and extirpation. I am interested in the obfuscating of the map or chart, in the visual reciprocity and tension at play between the zoological images emerging from the map and the map itself, and ultimately in arriving at a form of inter-species counter-mapping. This “response” mapping asks a number of questions, one of which could be, if sandhill cranes could make a map, what might it look like?”

Explore more of his work here

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Shawn Saleme

Written by Shawn Saleme



Shawn Saleme is a full time writer for Visual News. Having traveled to over 50 countries, his international escapades continue to influence his writing and perspective. When not in a foreign territory, he makes his home in his native San Francisco Bay Area. Become friends with him on Facebook and invite him to share drinks and stories with you.

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