Monday, April 13, 2009


Nothing is more solid and constant than the earth beneath our feet, right? It provides us with objective standards for measurement ("milestones" and "landmarks"). The physical location, dimensions and characteristics of mountains or streets or rivers can be quantified and recorded on maps that can be read and agreed upon by all.

Isn't it interesting, then, how various artists can view that same objective reality so differently?

A map of Florida from Walt Disney's Dumbo, with storks parachuting baby animals down on the circus.

The earth as a jester, with cautionary Latin maxims.

New York City as a huge penis

A map of London from the 1851 World's Fair

The earth may appear constant to a farmer or an engineer building a road. A map maker has tools and standards to depict the earth as objectively as possible. Artists look at the same object, but what a blaze of creativity in their responses!

The earth as perceived in 1940s romantic fiction, where the single most important thing on the planet is that rendezvous with your true love

A 15th century map of the earth

A 4th century map of the earth

A Hollywood map shows how California contains a microcosm of the rest of the world for purposes of filming movies.


Brad S said...

Maps have always been a fascination of mine, so it's nice to see some representation of them here.

There's a lot of untapped potential in illustration for the use of maps.

Anonymous said...

Diego Fernetti said...

You missed those wonderful renacentist maps with monsters on the unknown part of the seas. I also find fascinating the fact that someone placed signs like "terra incognita" in certain parts of old maps, and all the possibilities that it meant: new rivers, mountains, peoples, marvels... modern cartography is such a waste nowadays!

John C said...

Isn't it interesting, then, to reflect on the variety of ways that different artists view that same objective reality?And perhaps how they change with the times? When Saul Steinberg's famous New Yorker cover was printed, it was a huge hit among Manhattanites, but I'm guessing that in today's political climate it's seen as a bit provincial?

For mapophiles:

ces said...

I started getting National Geographic when I was 10. I spent more times looking at their maps than I did the magazine! I wanted to be a cartographer, but in those days school didn't make drafting available to girls - that was a male province!

I love maps!

Andrea said...

Haha, I've been a lurker for a good while now, and this post compelled me to comment. This kind of hits close to home, my father is a cartographer and my mother was a draftsman. As a kid I was always surrounded with maps (both hand-drawn and computer-generated) and I was fascinated with all of the tools my parents used before they had to switch to computers. My parents are one of the main reasons I draw today.

Plus, I know you get this a lot, but great blog. Love reading the posts and discussions that come up here.

David Apatoff said...

Brad S-- I agree! There is so much potential in maps-- metaphysical maps, biographical maps, cosmological maps. On alternate Tuesdays I am tempted to give up everything and devote my life to creating different kinds of maps.

Anonymous, thanks for an unorthodox perspective.

Thanks, dfernetti. I too enjoy the symbolism of "terra incognita." These maps can be explored on so many levels

David Apatoff said...

John, I like that strangemaps web site. There's a lot there. Steinberg did a number of maps in addition to the famous New Yorker cover-- perhaps not as cute, but many of which were more intellectually interesting. They are truly worth exploring.

David Apatoff said...

ces, it's never too late for someone who loves maps. You may not qualify for a job with Rand McNally, but there's nothing to stop you from creating maps of life or philosophical maps, for example. I'll post my maps if you'll post yours.

Andrea, you should never worry that I get too many "great blog" comments. I just finished getting chewed out by an irate reader who finds me a "paranoid, smug, bitter and narrow opinion merchant." comments like yours help to balance the scales, and I really do appreciate them. Thanks for writing.

kev ferrara said...

Well, as one of those people who likes to use the sun to guide me on long trips, I'm not exactly a map lover. My favorite kinds of maps, besides witty ones, are maps that are so wrong they're creative. I don't necessarily need to see "here there be dragons"... but as long as a few continents are left out, or some coastline is rendered ludicrously wrong, I'm entertained. The journey is always more fun if you don't know the ending. Whether on a trip, on a date, at a movie, or mapping the world.

Not to be a sexist, but I think I've seen about enough of Manhattan. How about Womanhattan?

Linda said...

Great post! Thank you. I love maps but have never run into this version before. Thanks for sharing

Antony Hare said...

Any ideas on who illustrated 'Trade Winds'? It's simply stunning.

David Apatoff said...

Thanks, Linda! Glad to have you here.

Antony, I'm afraid I don't know who did Trade Winds. I found it in a file of clippings from an old time illustrator. But I agree with you, it's pretty neat!

Anonymous said...

thts cool.. the jester is found in one of my shakespeare books