I am very pleased to present Mary Nasser to all of you, she is my guest Arty Cartophile for today. We connected over our mutual love of maps, textures, and layers. I asked her to answer some questions about her approach to her art.
You are what I would call an arty cartophile, or an artist who loves and incorporates maps in your work. At what point in your career did maps become your focus, and why?
I actually remember the exact point in my career when maps became my focus! It was during my artist residency at Wildacres in 2006. I had wanted to work in collage, but had been painting and exhibiting representational landscape oil paintings and watercolor paintings since 2000. Being in that remote cabin for a week gave me to the courage to move in this new direction â€“ to collage with all the maps and triptiks I had collected for my 900-mile drive. I didnâ€™t have GPS, and still donâ€™t!
Is your intrigue with maps more because of the way they look, or the information they impart?
Both! Iâ€™m intrigued that maps are tangible, portable guides to places and that they impart information much like a painting: that is that they translate what is three-dimensional into two dimensions. I also love the way maps look: their lines, rhythm, movement, patterns. The colors and shapes of geologic maps are especially fun and fabulous!
Your background includes the study of geology, painting, collage and sculpture. How do you think these interests are connected? If you were asked to add another area of science or art to your repertoire, what would it be?
The thread that runs through my interests in geology, painting, collage and sculpture is layers. I am fascinated with layers, and evidence of process, both additive and subtractive â€“ in art and in the earth. If I were asked to add another area of science or art to my repertoire, I would take on two: scientific illustration and cartography!
When creating your art, are you thinking of the piece as an actual place, or do you work by how it makes you feel?
Again, I think itâ€™s both, perhaps more the actual place though and the landscapes, geology and stories of that place. But the process of art definitely grounds me; working on a piece absorbs me and my attention. It is great fun adding thick textures and colorful layers, then wiping, scratching, and scraping to reveal underlying sections.
Â The cycles of time are thematic in your work. What time period interests you most?
The time period that interests me most is deep time. American writer John McPhee coined this phrase deep time in his book Basin and Range in 1981 to describe the immensity of all history, the antiquity of the earth: stories figuratively told by the layers of rock laid down over many years. I am interested in the layers of landscapes and the stories these layers tell.
You have had the opportunity to participate in artist residency programs in various parts of the country. Which experience would you like to repeat? Did you use maps in the work you created there?
I would love, love, love to repeat my residency at Red Cinder Creativity Center! Red Cinder is located between 2 volcanoes â€“ Kilauea and Mauna Loa, on the Big Island of Hawaii. Immersed in twelve of the worldâ€™s thirteen climate zones, I experienced and studied the various landscapes and dynamic geology of the island. I had the unique opportunities of watching landscape being created and standing on the newest land on earth â€“ land not even depicted yet on maps or GPS! All of my work created from this experience use maps: topographic, geological, and even vintage!
More about Mary, and how to find her.
Mary C. Nasser earned her Master of Fine Arts in Studio Art: Painting from Michigan State University. During her graduate studies, Mary also studied Medieval Art History abroad in London, England, and attended a monotype workshop in Mexico City. In 1996 she was a visiting artist and guest lecturer in Cluj-Napoca, Romania, where she lectured at Academia de Arte Vizuale â€œIOAN ANDREESCUâ€ (Academy of Visual Arts) and exhibited her work in “Deschideti U.S.A.” (Open the Door) at the Casa Matei.
Mary has had more than 20 solo shows in the past 10 years and has been awarded numerous residency opportunities. She was Artist-in-Residence in 2007 at Prairie Center of the Arts in Illinois, Petrified Forest National Park in Arizona, and Rockmirth in New Mexico. Her latest residency was at Red Cinder Creativity Center in Hawaii, where Mary lived near active volcanoes that continually recreate the landscape.
Mary C. Nasser
Program Chairperson, Women’s Caucus for Art – St. Louis