Sensorial Mapping

Map of My Garden: July, 2023 (2023)
screenprint on digital collage, printed on Canson Museum Rag, 19” x 24”

Maps, which Lucy Lippard argues are constructs seen as objective reality, were a tool of colonialist expansion. Curator Risa Puleo argues that mapmaking, first a military and then a surveying skill, was a way to organize and take land from the native people, as well as a foundational practice on which American landscape painting developed. Puleo argues that what was explicitly called the “taking of views”—that is, mapping or drawing from above—was also “to impose an ideology upon the land.” This also helped to cultivate the pervasive American cultural norm of “property [as] a way of seeing” (Puleo, p. 72-75). Mapping, property, and power are intertwined in twisted, misformed ways. As a white-bodied descendant of settler colonists, and also a mother, I wish to break this lineage—of the one who imposes control or power. 

So, in the process of dismantling, I sit on the ground and call upon the senses. Writing about a multi-day power outage where people newly discovered their environs, philosopher David Abram writes, “The breakdown in our technologies had forced a return to our senses, and hence to the natural landscape in which those senses are so profoundly embedded” (Abram, p. 63). Assuming synesthesia, I document the sights, sounds, tastes, feelings, and presences of the place. For example, above, I have captured with black ink lines the sound of both birds’ songs and fossil fuels. Back in the studio I digitally collage the “field notes,” often including a legend that hints at process. Aesthetically, these pieces bring me back to Julie Mehretu, whose embedded marks she describes as “characters,” and whose many layers are evocative of geological “fossils” (Butler, p.111).  For me, the act of being still in the garden counteracts our capitalist and colonialist culture and brings into relief the vibrancy of more-than-human perspectives. The maps document the act of noticing, which cultivates a postcolonial and ecologically intertwined future.

Map of My Father’s Garden (2023)
natural and artificial indigo ink, marigold ink, pokeweed ink, marigold dyed cotton, water based screenprinting ink, fresh leaf indigo dyed watercolor paper
23″ x 30″   

Map of My Father’s Garden, 75″ x 18,” digital collage
Sight drawings for “Map of My Father’s Garden”
Sound drawing #1 for “Map of My Father’s Garden” 14″ x 17″ Marigold Ink on Bristol (marigold collected from my father’s garden)
Sound drawings for “Map of My Father’s Garden” 75″ x 17″ Marigold Ink on Bristol
Taste Drawing #3 for “Map of My Father’s Garden” 14″ x 17″ Pokeweed Ink on Bristol
All five taste drawings “Map of My Father’s Garden” 14″ x 17″ Pokeweed Ink on Bristol

“A sensorial, historical walk through Cotton Hollow” (2022)
Artist book with sensory engagement, edition of three, 9″ x 9″
paper, laser jet print, cardboard, felt, wax paper, metal clasps, essential oils, homemade scents, sparkler

Cotton Hollow is a nature preserve in South Glastonbury, CT. Before white settlers arrived it was the winter home of the Nayaug, a tribe of the Wangunk, part of the Algonquin federation. When colonists moved in, they harnessed—for 200 years—the power of the water in service of multiple industries, forever altering the landscape. This book presents illustrations, present day and past photographs, a historical timeline with facts researched at the local historical society, five scents representing each industry (a mix of homemade and essential oil fragrances), and one sparkler, an invitation to honor the story about a family who died in an explosion in 1777 while making gunpowder for the Revolutionary War. Exploring the preserve with new eyes, the book integrates personal, artistic, and historical perspectives on this well-loved locale.

“June, 2022”
Digital Drawing

Made with layers of visual artifacts collected and created at the garden—drawings, specimens, symbols, and more—these digital maps capture a moment in time, each documenting my experience and relationship to the garden. Each map focuses on different senses or insights—smell, sound, sight, feeling, ownership, heat, and more.
Detail, “June, 2022”

“August, 2022”
Detail, “August, 2022”

Abram, David. The Spell of the Sensuous. Vintage, 17 Oct. 2012.

Butler, Cornelia H, et al. On Line : Drawing through the Twentieth Century. New York, Museum Of Modern Art, 2011.

Lippard, Lucy R. The Lure of the Local: Senses of Place in a Multicentered Society. New Press, 1998. 

Puleo, Risa. “Dispossession As a Way of Seeing: Unframing the Land Around the Clark Art Institute,” Humane Ecologies, edited by Robert Wiesenberger, Clark Art Institute, 25 July 2023, pp 68-87.

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