Boston-Cambridge in 10 panels

Over the last half year I have developed and executed a wall-sized map installation inspired by Boston & Cambridge for the Cambridge Innovation Center (CIC). I’ve displayed work at CIC several times before and was excited to work with them again on this commission, and creating a project in a new medium at such a large scale has been a great experience.

The long first phase of the project was devoted to preliminary research and experimentation. I knew I wanted to use the design of my existing Boston map to streamline the process, but I would need to enlarge it considerably. My challenge was to pick techniques to transform this relatively small image to a large scale, and to select materials and a display format that would be easy to transport and install in a conference room environment.

Decals and murals were considered, but I’ve been working on wood panels recently and was excited to continue with that medium. It was harder than I anticipated to quickly source 10 square wood panels of the same dimensions—I owe a lot to the friendly staff at Artist & Craftsman Park Slope! I would recommend their vast warehouse location to anyone looking for an art supply adventure.

While sourcing the panels I was also working on digitally tracing my Boston map so I could precisely scale up the roads. My idea was to use solvent transfer techniques to apply digital printouts onto the painted wood panels, so I needed a wall-scale digital image to work from.

Rather than directly reproducing the original image, to take advantage of the panel layout I chose to design each panel as an individual artwork. I produced a color mockup for CIC that divided each panel into alternating regions of white gesso, brown gesso and blue-green watercolor. These small-scale sketches helped me quickly decide how I wanted to structure an otherwise oversized artwork.

Once I had the digital map and the color sketch, I used a projector to trace the image structure onto the panels. At minimum I needed to delineate the areas for the river, the white gesso and the brown gesso, but I found it was most time-efficient to trace the streets in permanent marker as well.

Adding detail was a balance between focusing on each panel individually, then stepping back to ensure there was a consistent rhythm throughout the whole installation — which was particularly difficult since I barely had space see the entire work at once in my studio! It’s always surprising to me how increased scale immediately increases the physicality of execution. I developed a workflow of arranging + photographing all the panels every morning, then planning out the day’s work on a tablet.

After several weeks of adding detail and color, the panels were spray sealed and brought to Cambridge for installation!

The conference room has wonderful views of the Charles River and across to Boston. It was lovely to install my map while looking out at the real-life version of the streets and waterways I had depicted.

Inside-Out Gallery: “Roots of Innovation in Somerville”

The theme for this year’s ArtBeat festival in Davis Square is “Roots”, and Artisan’s Asylum was asked to do a thematic installation for the gallery space in the windows of the CVS in Davis Square to be on during the festival. We decided on a theme of “Roots of industry in Somerville”, showing examples of work currently made by Asylum members as well as images of industry historically in Somerville. My main contribution, aside from coordination, was to create a huge collaborative map that took up the entire back of one window.
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Modular Map Installation – Nighttime Display

We finally installed the modular map project yesterday afternoon, and it’s now on display for anyone who walks through Davis. It looked very minimal in the daylight, almost easy to miss, but at night the paper construction gets a little more interesting. Here’s some photos from last night:

The installation will be on view only through July 30th, so make sure to check it out in the next couple weeks!

Modular Map Installation – Progress

The display windows of the Davis Square CVS, which are prominently visible in the middle of the square, often house works by local artists or exhibitions relating to current events in the neighborhood. This month they will have a combination of both — an installation I’m putting together reflecting this year’s ArtBeat theme, “Migration”. I’m working on some “migrating” dimensional maps, a flock of birds, and a series of large-scale map “scrolls” as a backdrop. 
This was my preliminary installation sketch (not quite to scale):
The modular, dimensional map project has definitely been more time-consuming than I had anticipated, although I have made efforts to streamline the process. The problem is that it’s so difficult to anticipate what the parts will look like together before you have multiple in front of you. Here’s a progress shot of the first one I made:

It turned into the large one on the right in this photo, and in the detail below. Note how the more recent ones I’ve done are smaller, have more “legs” (to take up space as well as add movement!) and are much less dense:

Painting in the fields/squares may well be the most time-consuming part. (I actually calculated it out at one point, when I feared that the project was doomed: for each triangular segment, I spend about 1 minute average on tracing and cutting out, 5 minutes drawing the map, 1 minute gluing, but 12 minutes painting). 

The installation goes up on Friday morning. I’ll be sure to post photos!

UPDATE: We’ve decided to postpone the installation until Tuesday (partially because it’s a LOT more work on my end than I anticipated!). It’ll be up from July 10 – August 3 July 30th, and during ArtBeat, which is July 21st.

UPDATE 2: I showed a segment of the installation in an art crit meetup last night and I’m excited about how it looked all together. Here’s a photo:

I also got a lot of great feedback about it. It hadn’t occurred to me, even with the dimensional “folded” shape, that they look like an animation of paper folding itself (especially since these particular pieces are all a similar size), and that the shape could refer to paper road maps as well as topography.