On opening night, what impresses me is the eclectic grouping of artists and the range of interpretations of “Phoenix Map.” After a month-long run the show comes down today. I get a chance to connect with Claire Lawton, who curated and organized the event. As I walk into Regular Gallery this afternoon, I find her…what else…but folding a new map.
We’re trading places today, I get to ask the questions.
Is this an exclusive? I wonder out loud. She smiles, Yes, it is!
1. What is your occupation? I run the Phoenix New Times arts and culture blog called Jackalope Ranch.
2. What draws you to the arts? I’m drawn to the arts because they are constantly changing and are driven by absolutely fascinating people.
3. What inspired you to create this exhibition…Maps of Phoenix? and how did it end up at Regular Gallery? I’ve been drawing maps of the Downtown gallery scene in Phoenix for more than a year. At around the year mark, I was talking to New Times’ managing editor Amy Silverman and had mentioned that I was thinking about not continuing the map series. Truth is, I wanted to see what Phoenix looked like through the artists’ eyes. Luckily, she agreed — and she also thought I should keep drawing my maps.
We floated the idea by local creatives and Roosevelt Row members Cindy Dach and Greg Esser. Esser opened Regular Gallery in January, liked the show idea, and volunteered his space.
4. How did you go about choosing the 10 artists who participated?
I’ve been writing about the Phoenix art scene for a little more than a year and a half. The 10 artists who participated in the show are artists who I’ve interacted with, had discussions with, and whose work I could see working well together. The group is very different — a muralist, a cartoonist, a painter, a sculptor, a printmaker, a historian — these are all creative people who I’ve admired and who Amy and I have had on a sort of “wish list” for a long time.
6. Give me a childhood memory of a map.
Growing up, my mom drew directions on tiny maps she’d draw on scraps of paper. They always had her own system of landmarks; the big car always parked on that one street, the ugly bridge built over Ray Road, the ultra-blue fountain. It really wasn’t until I started drawing my own maps that I understood how much more sense they made and what value they carried over the 37 steps Google maps gives you or the annoying reminders from the OnStar lady.
7. You make lots of map…Do you think maps and cartography are important? Why?
I have a terrible sense of direction. I still turn the wrong way off the freeway to get to the house I grew up in Ahwatukee. Maps are important on a very utilitarian level — we all need to know where we’re going — but they’re also sentimental. The maps I make include places I love and experiences I’ve had. They almost always leave out one or two things, and they’re never to scale. Maps and cartography are important because they document where we’ve been and how we see what’s around us.
8. What did you learn from this experience?
This was my first time curating a show, so it was all a learning experience. I learned that I’m not alone in what I always assumed was an odd obsession with maps. I also learned that when you’re tall, you have to hang everything a little lower than eye level.
9. Will you do this again?
I hope this will be a yearly show and a continuing theme for shows in the future.
10. I loved the hand written title of show and artwork labels, on the wall…anything you want to say about the (your) font?
Thanks! All of my maps are hand-drawn with pen and colored pencils, so simple labeling (i.e. me writing the show title as well as the artists names and information) was natural. I’d always been self-conscious about my handwriting — my As look like deltas and I started writing in capital letters to make a point to a middle school teacher. It’s since grown on me.
Thank you Claire. And I agree with Amy, keep drawing those maps.
Below are photos of the various maps in the collection. For more info about each work, click on the image and go to the Jackalope Ranch, 5 Questions interview, by Claire Lawton.