MapCarte 190/365: Cartographer’s Handscapes by Angela Dorrer, 2013


The convergence of art and cartography is perhaps never more abstract than in the hands of an artist using the hands of cartographers as her canvas. Angela Dorrer’s handscapes are constructed with no preparation or pre-defined ideas about how the work will develop, what appearance it takes or what it may represent. It’s spontaneous art using maps as a medium to explore people and attempt to reflect something of them in the work.

As Dorrer explains “In every hand there are elevations, valleys, paths, branches and patterns”. Out of this, she develops topographies and new cartographies by painting directly onto the palm: handscapes. Through painting she discovers and/or uncovers, what she refers to as a new country. She explores, she measures, she maps a terrain, she names and every aesthetic decision has cultural consequences. However the existence of the new country and this new painting is short term, as the host body will begin to break it down rapidly with bodily sweat.

During the International Cartographic Conference in Dresden, 2013, Dorrer painted handscapes on a range of cartographers. As she painted, the two people spoke and she interpreted the conversation into her map art. Once complete and a photograph taken, the cartographer was invited to provide a written interpretation of their handscape. The results are intriguing.

MapCarte190_dorrer2Knowing many of the individuals, the art does in fact do a good job of reflecting character. The descriptions make sense if you know a little of the background of the people and go a long way to explaining different cartographer’s take on…cartography. The way we make maps is a function of many things but there’s something very personal we all put into our maps…they reflect our own artistic and aesthetic abilities whether subconsciously or not.

You can view more Cartographer’s Handscapes at Dorrer’s web site here.