Most of us see maps as getting us from here to there, but a Magnolia author is pointing readers in a new direction by using imaginative versions of maps created by various artists.
Last Thursday, Jan. 21, the Secret Garden Bookshop in Ballard teamed up with the Ballard Library to feature Magnolia author Katharine Harmon. She presented a slide show of her new book, “The Map As Art.”
“The Map As Art” is a compilation of artwork by artists who use maps as the basis of their vision. For example, one artist painted a picture of all the continents as if they were viewed from space at night. Cities in the United States and parts of Europe were dimly lit and the rest of planet was left in the dark. The artist titled it “The Axis of Evil–Mostly in the Dark.”
Harmon said her book, “The Map As Art,” was the result of her first book’s success. “I did a book about five years ago called ‘You Are Here: Personal Geographies and other Maps of the Imagination,’” Harmon said. The book contained work by some contemporary artists with historical maps that weren’t meant to be way-finding maps, just creative interpretations.
Shortly after the book was released, Harmon and her publisher, Princeton Architectural Press, saw the book was getting noticed. “Suddenly, the publisher and I started hearing from lots and lots of people,” Harmon said.
After she heard from fans of the first book, it wasn’t long before talk of another related book began. But Harmon said she wasn’t interested in doing the same thing, so she followed some advice. “Somebody else actually suggested to me that I do contemporary artists who are using mapping in their work,” Harmon said.
“The Map As Art,” which was released Nov. 4, 2009, contains 350 illustrations from 160 artists. These include Ed Ruscha, Julian Schnabel, Olafur Eliasson and William Kentridge. The book also contains several essays.
Harmon said she doesn’t consider herself an art historian; she simply finds maps interesting. She said this was one of the reasons for creating the book.
It didn’t take long after the book was released to see that Harmon wasn’t the only person who was interested in maps. She said none of the 7,500 books that were printed made it until Christmas.“They sold out in six weeks,” Harmon said. “I was worried about a $45 book in this economic climate, but I’m really happy.”
Suzanne Perry, events coordinator for the Secret Garden Bookshop, was thrilled to work with Harmon. “She had a new book; I knew that it would be a good fit for our audience,” Perry said. “The audience loves this kind of non-fiction.” Perry said the Secret Garden has been working with the Ballard Library to promote authors for years. “We started our series at the library as soon as they finished this beautiful rebuild of this branch, which was in November 2005,” Perry said. She added that they host four authors per month.
Christina Olson, a cartographer in attendance, said she was delighted by Harmon’s books and her presentation.
“I was trained as a professional cartographer in the late ‘60s and worked professionally at that, so to see maps from an artist’s perspective was wonderful,” Olson said.
Ellen Fitzgerald, librarian for the Ballard Library, said she’s thrilled to be working with Secret Garden Bookshop to bring in authors like Harmon. “For the last four years we’ve had a wonderful collaboration with Secret Garden Bookshop,” Fitzgerald said. “We had probably 100 authors come in the last three years.”
For more information about Harmon’s books or the Ballard Library’s author program, visit Secret Garden Books.
(Contributor Chris Mongillo is a student in the University of Washington Department of Communication News Laboratory.)