Lori Nix explains Map Room

Lori Nix’s images are filled with personal references – friends’ names appear as types of plants, vintage postage stamps are used as beer labels, and showroom posters reference classical paintings. These are just a few examples of details Lori shared with us during her public gallery talk. One of her newest images, Map Room, 2010, is so full of such references that we asked her to to give more insight into the piece (be sure to click the images below to view larger images).

Map Room, 2010

“There are all kinds of details in Map Room if the viewer takes the time to really inspect the image. All the maps were drawn by hand. My assistant Kathleen opened various books on the history of maps through the ages and took inspiration from them when designing her own maps. We wanted there to be a large variety, as well as nods to historical precedents. The largest map on the wall is, appropriately, a map of Houston, Texas in its early days. Other maps include a European sea chart dating from 1325, a bean-shaped map with a cartoon depiction of our house cat as a continent, circa 1507, an early map of Utopia, which by its very design is nothing but a fantasy, and a heart-shaped map dating from the Renaissance circa 1534. Other maps include “Verrazano’s Sea 1544″ decorated with cherubs, or wind heads, representing compass directions. Many of the animals in the decorative wooden panels below the maps were taken directly from the maps themselves. When cartographers were unsure of what lay beyond the known seas, dragons and monsters were drawn to warn of impending doom. Other animals and events depicted in the wooden panels were nods to other works I have done over the years, such as the dodo bird, a waterfall, a giant wave and a dinosaur.”

Map Room, 2010 detail
Map Room, 2010 (detail)

“The gilded molding along the top of the wall was reserved for paintings referencing astronomy and space travel. Portraits include astronomers and scientists such as Annie Cannon, who developed a system of classifying stars (she discovered over 300 stars, 5 supernovas and a binary star). Next to her is Claudius Ptolemy, an astronomer and mathematician who laid the foundation for a lot of future astronomers. Under the big frieze at end of the scene is Henrietta Leavitt, famous for her study of the luminosity of stars , and finally Galileo. Other medallions depict the Horsehead nebula, a meteor shower, images of various tools for observing, charting and recording findings, an eclipse, illustrations of  planet and moon surfaces, Stonehenge, a Mayan pyramid, the Milky Way galaxy, the big dipper, and my personal favorite, Laika, the soviet dog that became the first animal to orbit the Earth.”

Map Room, 2010 detail
Map Room, 2010 (detail)

“The blue celestial maps decorating the vaulted ceiling were inspired by the constellation maps of Johannes Hevelius circa 1690. Great liberties were taken in designing the constellations. We know of the constellation Pegasus, depicted by a winged horse, and Ursa Major as a giant bear, but in my maps, I have included an armadillo constellation and a camel constellation. As I hope you can see, I had a great deal of fun working on this diorama.”

Map Room, 2010 detail
Map Room, 2010  (detail)

Images © Lori Nix


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