Two concepts that run through my work a lot are placement and representation. Being from an immigrant family, finding my social place in the US and how I represent that has always been personally important to me. As a venture into identity politics, I started this body of work 15 years ago where I used the visual language of cartography to explore notions of identity, displacement, and the social issues that pop up from them. I wouldnt say that Ive come to some realization or conclusion, but rather Ive found a much larger idea in which some of these issues permeate. Besides the typical symbology found in maps, Ive found potential in expressing some of these ideas by incorporating color schemes, patterns, and forms that derive from well known sources. When combined with the map language, the scope of the work leaps from the personal relation to placement and representation and onto a much larger scale. This new body of work, The US Map series, begins to incorporate this strategy to exercise some of my ideas about this country. For example in US Map II (The Lost States), all the state names are names that were proposed to congress as new states but were never realized. Either it is a disagreement between cities and settlements that fostered a split from their original state or the settling of a new land, groups of people decided that their interests would only be addressed if they created their own state. Some of the states that we are familiar with, like Tennessee succeeded and others like Nickajack were not. This piece plays with the idea for the natural human need to be represented. But the need for governmental representation isnt the only level this piece works on. By incorporating varied patterns and colors from state to state as well as a variety of fonts for the text, each state exhibits a sort of flag that differentiates themselves from others in a more social context.
Other forms of representation that I found interesting with this country are what may now seem arbitrary, regions of the country that have been relegated to belts. In US Map III (The Belts), the country is divided up into horizontal strips of belts that represent the 19 belt regions. Originally, most of these places helped section off similar states into regions by race, business, agriculture, religion, and geographical features. States constantly change, as well as populations and culture, but a lot of these belt names still represent regions of the country that no longer adhere to the name. There plays an inconsistency with how regions would represent themselves now. Names like the Bible belt really no longer adhere to a place but to a culture and thats where placement and representation come to a conflict. By experimenting with the meaning of names and the history they are part of, this fundamental idea of placement and representation that runs through all of my work can continue to evolve and change meaning themselves.