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Unconventional NYC Maps Spotlighted at Pratt Gallery Exhibit

By DNAinfo Staff on October 18, 2010 1:09pm  | Updated on October 19, 2010 10:14am

By Tara Kyle

DNAinfo Reporter/Producer

MANHATTAN —  Nothing says New York like a Jell-O-like model of Manhattan's famous skyline.

Liz Hickok's "Jelly NYC,” a 3-D replica of the Financial District and Lady Liberty, is just one of a series of unconventional cartographies on display at the Pratt Manhattan Gallery's fall exhibit, "You Are Here: Mapping the Psychogeography of New York City.”

The collection, which also includes a chart of Craig's List "missed connections” sites, a map of Manhattan bodegas, and an active bee honeycomb shaped in the form of the five boroughs, was brought together by Seattle-based guest curator Katharine Harmon.

Harmon, author of two books exploring map-making as a form of art and personal expression, said her goal in selecting the featured artists was to convey "a mix of emotions that the city evokes” — including anxiety, isolation and nostalgia.

In the case of "Jelly NYC," Hickok attempted to depict some of the contradictory feelings experienced by longtime New Yorkers and tourists alike.

"It's that glow of the city, the allure of the city as you approach it,” Harmon said of the model's brightly colored visage. But stand too close, bounce around a bit, and the whole structure shakes before you, reflecting the vulnerability of the city and its institutions, which "may not be as solid as we think.”

While most of the maps were produced originally for the Pratt exhibit, a few predate it. Pakistani-born Asma Ahmed Shikoh created her Urdu language New York subway map as a response to tensions following 9/11. Maira Kalman and Rick Meyerowitz's "NewYorkistan,” also from 2001, gained fame as the image on the top selling New Yorker magazine cover of all time.

For Harmon, the interest in creative cartography, which began to grow in popularity in the 1960s with the interpretive U.S. maps of Jasper Johns, stems from a desire to explore the changing ways in which people seek a sense of belonging.

"Particularly in these times, we're just trying to orient ourselves in an increasingly complex and overwhelming world,” Harmon said. The need to place oneself on a map is simply "a way of grappling with that notion of being lost and found.”

"You Are Here: Mapping the Psychogeography of New York” will run through Nov. 6 at the Pratt Manhattan Gallery at 144 W. 14th St., 2nd Floor.