Cartographers in the Field: “This Depression-era oil painting was created by USGS field man Hal Shelton in 1940. The painting depicts mapping techniques used in the early days of cartography, including an alidade and stadia rod for determining distances and elevations and a plane-table for sketching contour lines. A USGS benchmark is visible near the top. The straight white lines represent survey transects. Note the ‘US’ marking on the canteen: many of the USGS field supplies were obtained from Army surplus.” [Osher Map Library]
For this exhibition, Scher has created a body of large-scale cartographic paintings focusing on the United States. Paintings as tall as seven feet depict the country swirling in torrents of information and undulating with colorful layers of hand-painted boundary lines, place names, and commentary. Different sets of data—population demographics, transportation flows, geography, and climate—are employed to make connections and establish patterns. While the information can in no way be interpreted as literal fact, the expression of it demonstrates a personalized understanding of the diversity of the United States.
The exhibition runs until March 26. More on the exhibition from Slate and Mental Floss. The New Yorker has a new profile of Paula Scher, a renowned graphic designer who’s been painting these distinctive maps in her spare time.