The Province Lands and The Map

We are lucky to be living near the Province Lands, common lands since the 17th century, and the youngest geologic land in the country. As the spits and beaches grew out of the sea, humans found these lands, shellfishing and trading with stray Europeans before there was history. The Province Lands grassy heaths are a last refuge for amphibians and shorebirds that once inhabited New England’s sand plains. The dunescapes are full of evidence: toadlets hop over buried jeep-chassis, coal dust and magnetite in wind ripples, ribbons of soil horizons revealed in dune faces, compass grass rings and cranberries in muddy hollows. Each walk traverses a map of the day as well as a slice of history and glacial time.

This workshop will be equally an inner and outer journey. We are each an atlas of maps, updated in each step over the shifting sandy ledges that pile up next to the sea. We map our bodies and the air and water in which we navigate. We rise and fall with the earth and ocean pushed and pulled by real forces, invisible and relentless.

In this day of mapping, we start with what neurobiologist Antonio Damasio calls body maps— in brain and body and place, a snapshot of the moment. We can open these maps through memory and observation, and then bring ourselves, our mapping platform, into the world. We will start with our personal map libraries. Sketching and writing about the places that have shaped us throughout our lives. We assemble a geographic language from our biographies ranging from the minute to the panoramic. Prompted by drawing exercises in the studio, we will venture into the Province Lands with the dual purpose of following our personal maps and gathering observations and waypoints that are the geographic extent of the day.

The result will be a set of visual journal pages, drawn and written, unique to each of us as pilots to the routes that we have walked together on separate planes. We’ll mostly rely on our wits and our steps to make simple maps but a few smartphone apps might be used optionally.

Morning session: drawing and writing exercises in the studio — blind/controlled contour drawing to focus on observation, discussion of map concepts and forms (cartography, artists’ maps, conceptual mapping, navigation, time).

Afternoon session: Province Lands landscape walk using intuition, measurement and navigation methods, drawing and writing for sketchbook journal pages.