Interpreting Map Art with a Perspective Learned from J.M. Blaut

Dalia Varanka


Map art has been mentioned only briefly in geographic or cartographic literature, and has been analyzed almost entirely at the interpretive level. This paper attempts to define and evaluate the cartographic value of contemporary map-like art by placing the body of work as a whole in the theoretical concepts proposed by J.M. Blaut and his colleagues about mapping as a cognitive and cultural universal. This paper discusses how map art resembles mapping characteristics similar to those observed empirically in very young children as described in the publications of Blaut and others. The theory proposes that these early mapping skills are later structured and refined by their social context and practice. Diverse cultural contexts account for the varieties, types, and degrees of mapping behavior documented with time and geographic place. The dynamics of early mapping are compared to mapping techniques employed by artists. The discipline of fine art serves as the context surrounding map artists and their work. My visual analysis, research about the art and the artists, and interviews with artists and curators form the basis of my interpretation of these works within varied and multiple contexts of late 20th century map art.


Blaut; cognition; cultural universal; spatial development; mapping behavior

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