Atlas Inverted

Timothy C. Ely

September 17, 2011


This portrait was taken while I was conducting an interview with Tim about his cartographic pursuits.  Halfway through the interview, I noticed that the soles of his shoes were nothing less than a map of the world—a map slowly being worn away as he walked.  It seemed a poignantly erosive metaphor.



Last Thursday I had the opportunity to visit the exhibition "Timothy C. Ely: Line of Sight," at the Northwest Museum of Arts and Culture in Spokane, Washington.  The exhibition presents a fine retrospective of Ely's books, especially those concerning maps.  The exhibition runs through April 16 and is a must see if you find yourself in Spokane.


I was invited to contribute an essay to a brouchure that accompanies the exhibition.  My essay is titled "Chasing Shadows, Becoming Atlas." Here's the first paragraph of that essay:


To open one of Timothy C. Ely's books is to open a world of gathered mystery. There, enigmatic scripts and equations, curious diagrams and geometries, and peculiar topologies and projections combine to form remarkable maps. At once familiar and alien, Ely's maps are vehicles for incubating dreams, for gathering and plotting the trajectories of ideas, for inscribing our symbolic mind in Earth and sky. They simultaneously dislocate, disorient, and hypnotize. Distinctly “off the map,” these graphic images demonstrate a virtuosic array of marks and beautiful compositions. Gathered as books, they extend atlas-like invitations to cradle potential worlds.


You can read the rest of it here.