Nowhere: Selections from the Files of the Hand Drawn Map Association

September 23–December 19, 2010
Arcadia University Art Gallery

Curated by association founder, Kris Harzinski  

The exhibition coincides with the release of From Here to There: A Curious Collection from the Hand Drawn Map Association, a 224-page book published this fall by Princeton Architectural Press. All but a handful of these drawings are presented on a long table encouraging visitors to assume a bird’s-eye view of each map. In its suggestion of a near-continuous line bisecting the gallery, this table also becomes a border separating the space into a “here” and a “there.”

Installation view, photo: Greenhouse Media

The works in the show differentiate themselves from conventional printed and (now) ubiquitous digital maps in telling ways. Sidestepping the objective and presumed authority of printed and digital examples, most of these maps are motivated by subjective, personal, and pragmatically contingent intentions, often generated by a conversation that they illustrate or abstract. While a small percentage of the drawings adopt the language of cartography for aesthetic purposes, most were made in response to specific circumstances or agendas. Each is distinguished by an autographic trace to become an expressive signature of its author with a unique, physical presence. Every map thus becomes a singular site in and of itself, regardless of its references. 

Harzinski writes: The exhibition begins with works focusing on some basic cartographic conventions. Points are used to plot specific locations, as in Marilyn Murphy's notecard charting injection sites for her arthritis treatment. Lines, on the other hand, begin to reference a journey from one point to another as in John Hutchison's drawing of his commute from Grand Central Station to his office. The layers of information gradually increase as points become symbols, lines become roads, and roads begin to intersect. 

Eventually line gives way to the grid and its myriad permutations, including maps of fictional or utopian places (as well as sites in video games), maps about maps, and projects such as Gary Setzer’s chalk-line drawing from his house to his studio. Presented as a video, this performative drawing negates the role of the typical map by resting directly on top of the territory it represents.


About the Exhibition

"Nowhere: Selections from the Files of the Hand Drawn Map Association" remains on view through December 19. Curated by HDMA-founder Kris Harzinski, the exhibition uses over sixty drawings to demonstrate the unique capacity of the hand drawn map to create sites (both graphic and virtual) where writing and depiction, documentation and fiction coincide to articulate locations otherwise beyond reach. The exhibition features works by artists from around the world as well as drawings by individuals based in the Philadelphia region, including Ryan Anderson, Becky Blosser, Keith Garcia, Andrew Herman, Jennifer McTague Janell Olah, Krista Shaffer and Perry Steindel.

The exhibition coincides with the release of From Here to There: A Curious Collection from the Hand Drawn Map Association published by Princeton Architectural Press.

The Hand Drawn Map Association (HDMA) was founded as an archive devoted to collecting hand drawn maps. The original focus of the association was to collect directional maps that people draw for one another as the immediate need arises, quick diagram-like sketches that can reveal a particular vision of a place but are often discarded after use. The HDMA rescues these pieces of ephemera, archives them, and presents them to the public via workshops, exhibitions, and the website. Since it began in 2008, the collection has grown to incorporate a vast array of creative interpretations of site and passage by artists (trained and untrained alike), illustrators, and cartographers (amateur and professional). The HDMA site, as well the Arcadia exhibition, includes a number of works by children as well as a selection of anonymous maps found by contributors.

For a detailed description of the show by Harzinski, including a complete list of participating artists, a selection of images, and information about additional public programming, please visit:

About the Artists

Both Andrew Herman and Perry Steindel (represented by two works apiece), have won a following for their painstaking drawings that suggest printed maps of real places. Playing with our readiness to believe the cartographic mark, they create maps of non-existent places using standard office supplies. Ryan Anderson and Krista Shaffer are represented by maps of Philadelphia, skewing William Penn’s rational grid to emphasize their own biases and sites of personal significance. In a similar way, Jennifer McTague tracks her private, idiosyncratic passage inside the ambitious plan of Eastern State Penitentiary. Will Haughery and Janell Ollah take Fishtown as their subject, idealizing points at which Penn’s grid breaks down or demonstrating the contested borders of the neighborhood. Keith Garcia is represented with a skate map of Dallas, Pennsylvania. Drawn when he was a teen, the chart uses color to point out the downhill inclines. Evoking the language of architectural renderings and instruction manuals, Becky Blosser records the generic route from self-service checkout station to urban apartment.