Blind Navigations / Phantoms Islands

Blind Navigations / Phantom Islands

My series of mixed-media renderings of St. Brendan's Island, Buss Island, Hy-Brasil, Frisland and St. Matheus Island pertains to a subject that entails fact as well as fiction, and that embodies a process of orientating and familiarizing an unknown, perhaps unknowable territory through mark-making, touch and chance. The islands referenced in the series are just a handful of the dozens of 'lands' known as 'phantom islands'—those that appear on old maps, and that sometimes continued to appear for hundreds of years, but that never existed or can no longer be found. The stories behind their repeated cartographic documentation tell of things ranging from navigational accidents, misidentified objects and the Fata Morgana phenomenon, to clever attempts by shrewd explorers to entice potential funders to back their expeditions. Since navigation and travel are intricately connected to storytelling, it’s no surprise that tales of mythic proportions developed around some of these 'phantom islands.' 

Intrigued by questions related to searching for, mapping and defining things that cannot necessarily be seen, I set out to find relevant drawing processes I could use to turn these 'invisible islands' into subject matter. I begin each 'cartographic' rendering with a blind circumnavigation of a particular ‘phantom island,' using pencil and slowly orientating my uninterrupted mark-making through touch—by feeling the paper’s edges, for example—rather than sight. The process varies. For some drawings, I look at a reproduction of the island and draw it without looking at my paper. For others, I close my eyes and draw according to my memory of its shape as seen on old maps. A third approach involves feeling the edges of a paper cut-out version of the island with one hand while drawing, with closed eyes, the corresponding contour with the other. I then cover the blind drawing with fluid washes of watercolor or graphite, followed by variable layers of repeated attempts at blind navigation.

All drawings: 2017.  8 x 10" inches.  Graphite, colored pencils, and watercolor on watercolor paper. 

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