By Ryah Cooley
In the age of the iPhone, the art of reading an actual map is indeed a lost skill. But maps themselves can still be art, even if their practical knowledge is lost on many a millennial, at least according to San Luis Obispo artist Ellen November.
"Maps have always fascinated me," the fiber artist, who is currently in Spain, said via email. "From family road trips to world geography, maps have sparked my interest throughout my life."
November's art, along with the works of more than 25 other local artists, is currently on display at Studios on the Park in Paso Robles as part of the Mapping Out show, which takes its inspiration from the limitless scope of cartography. November, who is guest curator for the show, sees maps as our guideposts to the past, the present, and the future. Mapping Out allows viewers to share in an exploration of artistic interpretations of our world from the perspective of cartography.
November grew up sewing and later decided to combine her love of cartography and quilting. After relocating to the Central Coast from Los Angeles years ago, November crafted pieces inspired by local haunts such as Solvang, Laguna Lake, Mission San Luis Obispo de Tolosa, Cambria, Morro Bay, Pismo Beach, Nipomo, and Avila Beach. November is inspired by pattern, color, and the overview of a given location.
In her work, November likes to combine aerial views with a significant landmark of a location to create a complex composition. Her piece SLO Mission shows a picturesque, storybook scene of the front of the mission in vibrant patches of warm browns and reds, with map markings overlaid on top, showing things like a blue line where the creek is.
November's other piece in the show, Morro Bay Estuaries, takes on a somewhat more literal representation of a map, with lines and markings for land, water, and trees overlaid on strips of abstract patterned green and blue fabrics.
While November admittedly uses Google Maps to find her way around Spain, she still feels intrigued by actual maps and has snapped many pictures of historic maps of places like the Pyrenees during her travels.
"Maps are graphic in nature," November said. "Aerial views give us a good perspective on our locale." Δ
Arts Writer Ryah Cooley is terrible with maps; she panics when there is no reception and Google Maps is on the fritz. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Mapping Out exhibit will be on display at Studios on the Park in Paso Robles through June 30. Show curator Ellen November will speak about Mapping Out during Art After Dark on June 1 from 6 to 9 p.m. In conjunction with the exhibit, Dr. Andrew Fricker of Cal Poly will teach about the geography of Paso Robles with geocaching on June 15 at 2 p.m.—all that's required for the event is a smartphone. Visit studiosonthepark.org for more information.