The art of map-making merged with the written word to lead to some intriguing discoveriesThursday at the Figge Art Museum, 225 W. 2nd St., Davenport.
Poet and Augustana professor Erin M. Bertram hosted the workshop "Given Space: Writing Your Own Cartography" to demonstrate the parallels between visual art and writing.
"I can't create images -- I have to talk about them," said Ms. Bertram.
While Ms. Bertram doesn't consider herself a visual artist, she enjoys analyzing maps and stories they tell.
"I would argue that pieces of literature, when well-written, can act as a map," she said.
People design maps with a specific audience in mind, Ms. Bertram said. While a birds-eye view of the Quad-Cities has meaning to those familiar with the area, a map of the subway system in Prague would understandably seem completely foreign to most Midwesterners.
"Ultimately, when a person makes a map they're deciding what to include and what to exclude," she said, as most practical road maps omit people, buildings and other decidedly unimportant details.
A series of maps created by Denis Wood that depict the Boylan Heights neighborhood in Raleigh, N.C., turns this idea on its head. The maps chart the positions of streetlights, traffic signs and even jack-o'-lanterns within the neighborhood and serve virtually no practical purpose, she said.
But these stripped down maps instill a sense of curiosity in the viewer and tell a version of the story of Boylan Heights, Ms. Bertram said. They made her want to "fill in the blanks," she said.
She ask the group to identify and map out the places they visit regularly or on a daily basis. Most maps included home, work, the gym, maybe a park and other landmarks, but the challenge came when she asked the group to mark the places they wished they could visit more often.
The exercise yielded surprising results for Andrea Potter, of Davenport.
"I can make this bigger if I want to," she said. "I think I want to push the parameters of my map and see what's out there."
She came to the workshop with her friend Kasey Kelly, of Rock Island, with whom she shares a fascination of maps going back several years.
Ms. Kelly, too, was astonished to see how drastically different her map was from her friend's, despite the fact they charted the same area.
"You only use maps when you're lost or confused," Ms. Potter said."But do we use them when we decide who we want to be?"
The workshop accompanies the museum's exhibit "Marking Territory: Cartographic Treasures of the Mississippi River and the World Beyond," on display through June 16.