Mapping the imagination: making sense of your worldview

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in global niche,home,identity,origin

16th century Ottoman map

By ROSE DENIZ

There was never a time I didn’t feel compelled to see the world.

Raised in a village in rural Wisconsin, National Geographic maps lined our walls. Road atlases sat next to the phone. Peering at the contours of the maps on tiptoe, I was transported, and transformed by what I saw….visualizing cities and countries complete with sounds, smells, and colors. Through the use of my imagination, I had a very real experience of a world I had never literally seen.

It wasn’t until I moved to St. Paul, Minnesota as an adolescent that my borders became tighter. The realization struck: it was unlikely I would see every corner of the world.

In graduate school, I made paintings of personal mapping, using symbols and dots for trails, making tiny marks on large sheets of paper and canvas. I studied Julie Mehretu’s chaotic paintings that exploded into maps and diagrams. Discovering the book You Are Here: Personal Geographies and Other Maps of the Imagination, informed my quest to understand everything from natural disasters and physics to the loss of my mother.

By creating my own maps, I was charting my future while seeking to understand my past.

I have fundamentally changed the way I make visual art as a result of moving abroad and having to live what I had only previously imagined. My drawings have shifted from abstract explorations of memory and the cosmos, to depictions of people, places, and objects. Creating stitch lines on fabric like drawings with thread have inspired an unraveling of artistic practice. I engage intuition, vision, and risk through drawing tools to map my way forward in cultivating an artful life.

How has your worldview literally shifted as a result of location?
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Rose Deniz is knee-high in quilting fabric, writing a fictional handbook of domestic impulses, and sharing drawings of daily life on her blog.
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  • http://www.dutchessabroad.com Judith van Praag

    The first time I moved to California from the Netherlands I was in my late teens. Immediately I was struck by the truth of a reality I was unaware of before. Imagine my surprise to see what I had believed to be fantasy; scenery, costumes, props designed by art-directors for the movies I watched on TV and in movie theaters in real life!

    This confrontation at age eighteen made me realize later that my point of view up to that time had been limited by the size of my home country. While the horizon was literally broadened by sheer manifestation of size: United States versus the Netherlands (by comparison NL fits five times in my present home state Washington) my mind opened to a different perspective.

    • http://rosedeniz.blogspot.com/2010/02/medine-memi.html Rose

      Judith, I think size and space does have something to do with it. Just being where I am now, closer to everything, rather than in the Midwest, central and remote from everywhere, has changed how I view distance. One funny side effect of this is that I am baffled by people who complain about say, Ankara being far away from Istanbul. It’s maybe 3.5 hours away from where we live. To me, that was close when I lived in the US!

    • http://hopefilledjars.blogspot.com/ Judith van Praag

      Rose, Your post and the ensuing discussion awakens an urge I’ve had for many years to work with maps of places that have been important to me. I thank you for that, through dialogue our ideas take shape.

  • Anonymous

    The first time I moved to California from the Netherlands I was in my late teens. Immediately I was struck by the truth of a reality I was unaware of before. Imagine my surprise to see what I had believed to be fantasy; scenery, costumes, props designed by art-directors for the movies I watched on TV and in movie theaters in real life!

    This confrontation at age eighteen made me realize later that my point of view up to that time had been limited by the size of my home country. While the horizon was literally broadened by sheer manifestation of size: United States versus the Netherlands (by comparison NL fits five times in my present home state Washington) my mind opened to a different perspective.

    • Anonymous

      Judith, I think size and space does have something to do with it. Just being where I am now, closer to everything, rather than in the Midwest, central and remote from everywhere, has changed how I view distance. One funny side effect of this is that I am baffled by people who complain about say, Ankara being far away from Istanbul. It’s maybe 3.5 hours away from where we live. To me, that was close when I lived in the US!

    • Anonymous

      Rose, Your post and the ensuing discussion awakens an urge I’ve had for many years to work with maps of places that have been important to me. I thank you for that, through dialogue our ideas take shape.

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  • http://www.rosedeniz.blogspot.com rosedeniz

    Tara, I really like how you say “calling many places home makes me more comfortable as a global citizen.” In that way, it’s less about the place and label and more about you.

    And Elmira, like you, I also escaped into literature (still do) as a way to explore the world from home. Good for you that breaking away from convention brought you closer to ‘home’ and your family.

  • Anonymous

    Tara, I really like how you say “calling many places home makes me more comfortable as a global citizen.” In that way, it’s less about the place and label and more about you.

    And Elmira, like you, I also escaped into literature (still do) as a way to explore the world from home. Good for you that breaking away from convention brought you closer to ‘home’ and your family.

  • http://www.wondermentwoman.com Elmira

    Believe it or not, St. Paul, Minnesota wasn’t so different from Brooklyn, NY. Though I grew up in one of the most culturally diverse and cosmopolitan cities in the world, I too felt as though I would never see the world. Sure the world was accessible right in front of me. But my conservative Turkish family prevented me fro accessing any of it. My escape was literature. Through books I traveled India, the Far East, the Near East, Victorian England and of course bizim Turkiye. Interestingly these tales I read to escape gave me the courage to actually do it. Turning away from the obligations of marriage and children I went to London, Washington and then Sarajevo. And have been on an airplane ever since. The affects of all this travel? I’ve come to understand and empathize with my parents in a way had I never left to begin with. We have a close and open relationship now, which I don’t think would have happened had I not changed my location.

  • http://www.wondermentwoman.com Elmira

    Believe it or not, St. Paul, Minnesota wasn’t so different from Brooklyn, NY. Though I grew up in one of the most culturally diverse and cosmopolitan cities in the world, I too felt as though I would never see the world. Sure the world was accessible right in front of me. But my conservative Turkish family prevented me fro accessing any of it. My escape was literature. Through books I traveled India, the Far East, the Near East, Victorian England and of course bizim Turkiye. Interestingly these tales I read to escape gave me the courage to actually do it. Turning away from the obligations of marriage and children I went to London, Washington and then Sarajevo. And have been on an airplane ever since. The affects of all this travel? I’ve come to understand and empathize with my parents in a way had I never left to begin with. We have a close and open relationship now, which I don’t think would have happened had I not changed my location.

  • http://www.google.com/profiles/tara.agacayak Tara Lutman Agacayak

    How could moving to another country NOT change your worldview? I never planned to marry a Turkish husband and move abroad; I consider myself a homebody, not an adventurous world traveler. But what the move meant for me was getting to know different parts of myself by living in a foreign place. Calling upon different resources and values and finding courage during the acclimation process I think my view of myself changed as much as my view of the world. I call myself many things – American, Californian, expat … but I think calling many places home makes me more comfortable as a global citizen.

  • http://www.google.com/profiles/tara.agacayak Tara Lutman Agacayak

    How could moving to another country NOT change your worldview? I never planned to marry a Turkish husband and move abroad; I consider myself a homebody, not an adventurous world traveler. But what the move meant for me was getting to know different parts of myself by living in a foreign place. Calling upon different resources and values and finding courage during the acclimation process I think my view of myself changed as much as my view of the world. I call myself many things – American, Californian, expat … but I think calling many places home makes me more comfortable as a global citizen.

  • http://www.rosedeniz.blogspot.com rosedeniz

    Phil, at first glance, Disappearance, A Map, makes me also think of how maps can lead us to a variety of places: danger, self-discovery, and awakening being less location-centric compared to using a map while on holiday. So yes, if the maps in this conversation are about navigating personal territory, leaving the map behind at some point is crucial. Thanks for sharing your coming-of-age folding of the map.

  • Anonymous

    Phil, at first glance, Disappearance, A Map, makes me also think of how maps can lead us to a variety of places: danger, self-discovery, and awakening being less location-centric compared to using a map while on holiday. So yes, if the maps in this conversation are about navigating personal territory, leaving the map behind at some point is crucial. Thanks for sharing your coming-of-age folding of the map.

  • philklein

    The reflections on maps in this conversation suggest to me how maps are in a sense references that help people to approach a territory as well to maintain distance. Abstract yet relevant, maps orient and provide context, relatedness and proximity, but curiously, not immediacy. The paradox is that to know a territory, I often require a map, though to know a map is never the same as knowing the territory. Maps can say so much, yet in a sense they also say so little. While traveling at 19, a great joy for me was the moment when I knew enough to fold up my map and move forward, fully present to the sites and surrounds of an unfamilar landscape. The first day I experienced that was a morning of venturing towards Mount Olympus in Greece, which was a successful encounter with the un-mappable. This topic also reminds me of Sheila Nickerson’s excellent book: Disappearance, A Map. http://www.amazon.com/Disappearance-Meditation-Death-Loss-Latitudes/dp/0156004984 .

  • philklein

    The reflections on maps in this conversation suggest to me how maps are in a sense references that help people to approach a territory as well to maintain distance. Abstract yet relevant, maps orient and provide context, relatedness and proximity, but curiously, not immediacy. The paradox is that to know a territory, I often require a map, though to know a map is never the same as knowing the territory. Maps can say so much, yet in a sense they also say so little. While traveling at 19, a great joy for me was the moment when I knew enough to fold up my map and move forward, fully present to the sites and surrounds of an unfamilar landscape. The first day I experienced that was a morning of venturing towards Mount Olympus in Greece, which was a successful encounter with the un-mappable. This topic also reminds me of Sheila Nickerson’s excellent book: Disappearance, A Map. http://www.amazon.com/Disappearance-Meditation-Death-Loss-Latitudes/dp/0156004984 .

  • http://www.rosedeniz.blogspot.com rosedeniz

    I agree, Anastasia, that from a distance many things look a lot different than they do up close. And then, even microscopically, it all changes shape again and that cracked pavement has a new set of qualities that hinge on perspective. I think that is why my early impressions from maps, as intriguing as they were, were alluring and not realistic. On the other hand, the rather transcendental experiences tapped me into something rich and very real on its own terms that I don’t try to match up with the stuff of daily life living abroad.

    Catherine, maybe once we’ve committed to a place on some level, too, that weight, feeling of being hemmed in starts to set in? Lately I’ve been thinking of wide open spaces, something that virtually doesn’t exist in my world here. I’m attracted to opposites.

  • Anonymous

    I agree, Anastasia, that from a distance many things look a lot different than they do up close. And then, even microscopically, it all changes shape again and that cracked pavement has a new set of qualities that hinge on perspective. I think that is why my early impressions from maps, as intriguing as they were, were alluring and not realistic. On the other hand, the rather transcendental experiences tapped me into something rich and very real on its own terms that I don’t try to match up with the stuff of daily life living abroad.

    Catherine, maybe once we’ve committed to a place on some level, too, that weight, feeling of being hemmed in starts to set in? Lately I’ve been thinking of wide open spaces, something that virtually doesn’t exist in my world here. I’m attracted to opposites.

  • http://skaiangates.blogspot.com/ Catherine

    Location definitely informs my sense of self. Ireland was on the edge, there were possiblities all around and very few limiting factors. Colorado was central, with the challenge of the mountains rising up. Turkey is more hemmed in, the weight of history, the pressure of the surrounding regions, seems to limit my view of the world.
    I love maps, they are so important as documents, and still they free my imagination as I pour over them.

  • http://www.skaiangates.com Yazarc

    Location definitely informs my sense of self. Ireland was on the edge, there were possiblities all around and very few limiting factors. Colorado was central, with the challenge of the mountains rising up. Turkey is more hemmed in, the weight of history, the pressure of the surrounding regions, seems to limit my view of the world.
    I love maps, they are so important as documents, and still they free my imagination as I pour over them.

  • http://anastasiaashman.wordpress.com/about/ Anastasia

    I find it’s one thing to be intrigued by the world, and quite another to have to deal with it on its own terms. So many things look better from a distance, whether it’s a squiggly line on a GPS device rather than a no-turning-back terrifying forestry development road or the shimmering edge of the Bosphorus viewed from a hilltop rather than the cracked pavement of the waterfront soiled by fishermen and junkies, majesty lost. So I guess my answer would be that I find it easier to be an optimist from a distance.

  • http://www.expatharem.com/identity-messages/ Anastasia

    I find it’s one thing to be intrigued by the world, and quite another to have to deal with it on its own terms. So many things look better from a distance, whether it’s a squiggly line on a GPS device rather than a no-turning-back terrifying forestry development road or the shimmering edge of the Bosphorus viewed from a hilltop rather than the cracked pavement of the waterfront soiled by fishermen and junkies, majesty lost. So I guess my answer would be that I find it easier to be an optimist from a distance.

  • http://www.rosedeniz.blogspot.com Rose

    Catherine, Sarah Midda’s book is just lovely, and for me captures the essence of a very present, and not detached, observing of a place. Thank you for reminding me of this lovely tome. Tactile experiences are fulfilling for me as well, visual being at the top of my list, but I like to give my senses a rest once in a while; that’s when I work the best, after having sensorially filled up, going back to my studio. Even while on the go, I must have a place to return to in which I can contemplate my day or what I’ve seen. With you juggling two countries, I am sure you can relate to needing to carve out a space in which you can retreat to work. I’m so glad your travels keep you “moving” in more ways than one, always ready to seek out a new textile, object, or image. Thank you so much for your thoughtful answer to my question.

  • Anonymous

    Catherine, Sarah Midda’s book is just lovely, and for me captures the essence of a very present, and not detached, observing of a place. Thank you for reminding me of this lovely tome. Tactile experiences are fulfilling for me as well, visual being at the top of my list, but I like to give my senses a rest once in a while; that’s when I work the best, after having sensorially filled up, going back to my studio. Even while on the go, I must have a place to return to in which I can contemplate my day or what I’ve seen. With you juggling two countries, I am sure you can relate to needing to carve out a space in which you can retreat to work. I’m so glad your travels keep you “moving” in more ways than one, always ready to seek out a new textile, object, or image. Thank you so much for your thoughtful answer to my question.

  • http://www.bazaarbayar.com Catherine Bayar

    Rose, your watercolor vignettes make me happy just looking at them! They remind me of one of my favorite books, now nearly 20 years old, by Sara Midda, “South of France: a Sketch Book”.

    Thanks for the thought-provoking post. I could answer your question in a variety of ways, since location has enormous impact on worldview – politically, socially, morally. But since we are artists, I’ll stick to the most personal – sensually. Like all of us, I perceive the world around me through my senses, but most profoundly those visual and tactile. It’s a back and forth process – I’m attracted to something visually, ‘learn’ it by feeling it, then remember it by what it looked and felt like. Traveling for work and for pleasure is my best source for new sensory input. When I’m in one place for very long and it all becomes too familiar, I find my senses dim. This compels me to keep moving, to keep searching out newness to keep me stimulated.

    In my work, it translates into seeing, feeling and retaining the drape of a skirt, the weight of a yarn, the shape of a window. These sensual memories become my map for making new clothing, new interiors. Living in a culture in which it’s taken some time to understand all that is going on around me (I’m not there yet, and this does not only pertain to language) helps my art by keeping me off guard. It’s tougher then to fall into complacency or boredom. Living in two places and bouncing between two cultures has its advantages, though the clash of worldviews can make me want to run from all this stimulation and find an ivory tower. Clearly for me however, this would stifle my creativity, not enhance it.

  • http://www.bazaarbayar.blogspot.com Catherine Bayar

    Rose, your watercolor vignettes make me happy just looking at them! They remind me of one of my favorite books, now nearly 20 years old, by Sara Midda, “South of France: a Sketch Book”.

    Thanks for the thought-provoking post. I could answer your question in a variety of ways, since location has enormous impact on worldview – politically, socially, morally. But since we are artists, I’ll stick to the most personal – sensually. Like all of us, I perceive the world around me through my senses, but most profoundly those visual and tactile. It’s a back and forth process – I’m attracted to something visually, ‘learn’ it by feeling it, then remember it by what it looked and felt like. Traveling for work and for pleasure is my best source for new sensory input. When I’m in one place for very long and it all becomes too familiar, I find my senses dim. This compels me to keep moving, to keep searching out newness to keep me stimulated.

    In my work, it translates into seeing, feeling and retaining the drape of a skirt, the weight of a yarn, the shape of a window. These sensual memories become my map for making new clothing, new interiors. Living in a culture in which it’s taken some time to understand all that is going on around me (I’m not there yet, and this does not only pertain to language) helps my art by keeping me off guard. It’s tougher then to fall into complacency or boredom. Living in two places and bouncing between two cultures has its advantages, though the clash of worldviews can make me want to run from all this stimulation and find an ivory tower. Clearly for me however, this would stifle my creativity, not enhance it.

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