In her new book, MAPS
, Paula Scher—graphic designer, artist, and modern-day cartographer—presents 39 of her witty and graphic paintings together for the first time. Though she began creating maps in the early 1990s, Scher's introduction to the art form came early. In the 1950s, her father worked in the mapping division of the U.S. Geological Survey and would spread out aerial photographs in the family's basement, looking for distortions caused by the camera lens. "All maps are distorted," he explained, as she writes in her new book. "They are not literal fact." Neither are her dense paintings, though they're jam-packed with information. In The World
(1998) the familiar continents are marked with time zones and longitudes, while a stream of statistics lists the world's population, total square miles, and largest islands. It's information overload—in acrylic on canvas. Other paintings tell more specific stories. Florida
(2005), for example, looks back on the pins-and-needles 2000 presidential race, with red and blue counties and swirls of election results. And for a 2,430-square-foot mural at a public school in Queens, New York, a map of the area translates the names of nearby neighborhoods into 20 languages—all walks of life on a single street.
Paula Scher MAPS, by Paula Scher, Princeton Architectural Press, $50;
Click here to see the gallery for "All Over the Map."