When considering the historical path of a river, it’s easy to imagine a torrential flood that causes a stream to overflow its banks, or a drought that brings a body of water to a trickle. The reality of a river’s history is vastly more complex, as the artery of water gradually changes directions over thousands of years, shifting its boundaries imperceptibly inch by inch.
Geologists and cartographers have grappled with helpful ways to visually depict a river’s flow over time. In 1941, the Mississippi River Commission appointed Harold Fisk to undertake a groundbreaking effort to map the entire Lower Mississippi Valley. Three years later he produced a stunning series of 15 maps that combine over 20 different river paths obtained through historical charts and aerial photography.
The beautiful map seen here of the Willamette River Historical Stream Channels in Oregon by cartographer Dan Coe also shows the history of a river, however Coe relied on more recent aerial radar technology called lidar. From The Oregonian:
Lidar data is collected by low-, slow-flying aircraft with equipment that shoots millions of laser points to the ground. When the data is studied, an amazingly accurate model of the ground can be mapped.
It is possible to strip buildings and vegetation from the images, so that only the ground is shown. In the Willamette River poster, the shades of white and blue show elevations. The purest white color is the baseline, (the zero point, at the lowest point near Independence on the upper part of the image). The darkest blue is 50 feet (or higher) than the baseline.
The shades of white show changes in elevation, between 0 to 50 feet. This brings out the changes made by the river channel in the last 12,000 to 15,000 years, in the time since the landscape was basically swept clean by the Missoula floods.
The map is usually available as a print through the Nature of the Northwest Information Center, however the site appears to be down at the moment. (via Feltron, The Oregonian)
English artist Ed Fairburn (previously) uses vintage road maps and star charts as canvases for drawn portraits. Cross-hatched patterns and shaded regions inside roads, borders, and rivers assimilate into the contours of faces, as if the images had always been secretly hidden in the map’s topography. “In his hands, both built infrastructure and natural phenomena echo the organic human form,” shares Mike Wright Gallery. “National highway systems become capillaries, and the tangle of Paris’ alleyways become the wrinkles that give the face history and individuality.”
Fairburn opens a new show of work alongside artist John Wentz today at Mike Wright in Denver.
Barbara Wildenboer produces sculptures pieced together from delicately cut books, thin strips of paper splaying out from each book’s spine. Wildenboer’s found books are often ones containing maps, atlases, and scientific subject matter, sometimes using images from the book as central elements to her pieces. Imagery, words, and sentences become components of the larger designs, as she crafts new visual narratives from the raw material.
By producing visual metaphors, Wildenboer attempts to capture her own wonder of complex systems in nature like fractal geometry and the interconnectedness of all beings. She works across several academic disciplines to showcase how our understanding of life is often mediated through text, stretching the world of each book she manipulates outside of its own cover.
Wildenboer lives and works in Cape Town, South Africa, where she received her Masters in Fine Art from the Michaelis School of Art at the University of Cape Town in 2007. Her latest body of work, “The Lotus Eaters“, toured South Africa after opening at The Reservoir at the Oliewenhuis Art Museum in Bloemfontein in 2014. (via Colossal Submissions)
Rio de Janeiro
As part of a new exhibition in Venice that explores the relationship between cities and inhabitants, digital artist and illustrator Istvan (previously) created a series of city maps that seem to bleed into their surroundings. The works aren’t scientific by any means, but are meant as a representation of how cities might affect the local environment. The maps were created digitally and printed on large slabs of acrylic glass for display as part of Contemporary Venice through January 2015. You can see much more over on Behance.
Madrid-based 3D artist Lee Griggs created some fascinating topographical illustrations using 3D animation and rendering software Maya Xgen and Arnold. Each piece is comprised of countless spheres, cylinders, or cubes that have been extruded and colored to create images reminiscent of ocean floors, bacterial growth, or even weather patterns. Griggs talks a bit more about how he renders these and shares a number of tutorials over on his blog. (via Colossal Submissions)
A perfect mix of both functional cork board and world globe, the Cork Globe is a snazzy desktop object for any world traveler. Designed by Chiaki Kawakami for Suck UK. (via The Awesomer)