Throughout our lives, we develop deep connections to geographical spaces. Perhaps there is a coastline you feel a particular gravity towards, a city that has always felt like home, or a mountain range that fills you with a combination of heartbreak and hope. Just as we create emotional attachments to the people in our lives, we also create attachments to the places we live in and long for. I interviewed various people about places they have felt connected to throughout their lives and what emotions come up for them as they think of each place.
From these interviews, I was able to create visual representations of an individual’s history of place by mapping not only the geography of where they’ve been, but also the emotions that connect them to each location. Each canvas holds a composite map of two or more places. Some places are included because of connections the individuals have formed by living there for many years, while others are incorporated because of the deep ancestral history connecting the individual to the place—even if they have not spent much time there themselves. I used a combination of road maps and elevation contour line maps (topographic) of individuals’ corresponding locations to create these composites.
After creating each map on canvas with watercolors and pens, I stitched the corresponding person’s portrait into the canvas with thread and added some extra 3-D elements on top. I then created a panel to go behind the canvas to tell more of each person’s story. These panels are collages of paper maps, quotes from their interview, and other pictures or words that are connected to their story. Each collage panel is fastened with hinges to the back of a canvas, so that viewers can interact with the pieces by opening the maps and reading more about each person. My hope for my work is that it initiates more reflection on the factors that affect our relationships with physical spaces and how our stories are stitched into geographical landscapes. I hope it helps people realize their own emotional connections to spaces and provides them with the opportunity to consider how they are tied to various places in their own lives.