Working at the Community Day event for the centennial of the Panama-Pacific International Exhibition (PPIE) last Saturday was an interesting experience. Although I have been working on a map of Golden Gate Park for my residency, the original fairground map of the PPIE was intriguing to me, as was the possibility of working with participants who were equally interested in the unique combination of history, culture and economics that the PPIE presents. After seeing this map from the San Francisco Public Library, I was motivated to create my own version that played with the building names.
Although a great deal of my work is more traditionally called “painting,” I often use public interaction as a basis for work that addresses social issues. For projects like The TakeOut Project and A City In Maps, I knew that ongoing public dialogue about the subject would be as important as the materials used. I’ve always been interested in the way social spaces are shaped by economic and political factors, so a map made from donated materials and shared stories seemed the perfect way to look at the space of Golden Gate Park.
So many interesting stories get shared through the process of making this map. The weekends are filled stories from tourists from all over the world, but the weekday visitors are often locals who know the park in complex and layered ways. A story from Thursday was particularly relevant. A man had come into the space and immediately recognized my painting as a “toile wallpaper for Golden Gate Park”. He turned out to be an artist with experience designing wallpaper himself. He shared a old straw wrapper to add to my map of the park, and when I invited him back to closing reception, he shared that he had just been evicted and was finally leaving the city for good that afternoon. Although I am sure his future home of Nevada City will treat him well, his story is unfortunately a common one for many artists in San Francisco.
As I prepare for my residency project about mapping Golden Gate Park with recycled paper scraps, I have been thinking a lot about the historical perspectives that informed the development of the park. Planning a big urban park in San Francisco not only offered public access to nature, but established the city’s claim as one of the nation’s great cities, aiming to compete with New York’s Central Park and Chicago’s Lincoln Park. In 1870, when construction of the park began, San Francisco was already suffering from several decades of rapid growth, and the park was to provide an escape to an idealized view of nature. The influence of Romanticism loomed large here, as did older pastoral visions, and I have been interested in trying to better understand that background, however disconnected it might have been from the reality of the park site itself.
The scraps of toile wallpaper samples that have been floating around my studio seemed relevant and I have started preparing my own ‘Golden Gate Park Toile’ as a backdrop for one area of the gallery.
Lauren Bartone isn’t attached to traditional map making. While she does spend her fair share of time studying maps, her recent work, The Take Out Project, retranslated cartography from a visual capture of space and geography to a display of food justice and socioeconomics. Bartone collected discarded food trash – paper plates, take-out containers, plastic bags – and repurposed them into map markers. Just as importantly, the artist engaged the community’s participation. Instead of a street name, you might find the local Farmers Market on the map by locating the blue mushroom container, purchased from the market by a community member that morning. A man harvests vegetables from the community garden, then contributed the bag used to carry them, which is then placed on the map to represent the garden. Bartone’s map shows us what people are eating in which neighborhoods and how food access is distributed throughout the region. Through it, we can gain a new understand of the place we live in and, indeed, redefine space.
In February 2015, Bartone will take up residency at the de Young museum where she will continue to explore this idea of repurposing discarded paper trash to represent a place – this time, the museum and its environs, in A City in Maps.