“I sense that humans have an urge to map—and that this mapping instinct, like our opposable thumbs, is part of what makes us human,” Katharine Harmon writes in her introduction to You Are Here: Personal Geographies and Other Maps of the Imagination, a collection of artists’ maps including both real and imagined places. “Part of what fascinates us when looking at a map is inhabiting the mind of its maker, considering that particular terrain of imagination overlaid with those unique contour lines of experience.”
The maps in the book include the Italian artist Sara Fanelli’s "Map of My Day," which breaks down the typical child’s routine into nine sections including breakfast, school and playground, depicted in a bright, playful painting. In John Fulford’s The Walk to South School 1964-71, 2003, the artist recreates his walk to school for his nieces who attended the same school thirty years later. He includes places that are no longer in existence such as a tree house and a baseball diamond, as well as additions by the girls like a Stinky Spot and a tiny orange Fiat.
I’ve used both these maps in a lesson on personal geography that combines writing and visual art and is especially effective towards the end of the residency. It also provides an opportunity for students to convey or express something that they may not have been able to, such as a death or another painful event.
For a complete lesson plan on how to incorporate personal geography into your teaching practice, go here.
Susan Buttenwieser is a prose writer and T&W teaching artist. To read more about Susan, go here.