A new body of work by artist Paula Scher takes a subjective look at topography

by Maj Hartov


Graphic design heavyweight Paula Scher‘s new book Maps covers her cartographic artwork since the late 1990s. She calls her large-scale paintings “distortions of reality,” as they comment on our world of information overload in a deeply personal way. When she was a child, Scher’s father—who wrote an introductory essay for the book—invented a device called Stereo Templates that helps correct the naturally occurring deviations in aerial photos used for creating maps. As a result, the artist grew up understanding that all maps contain distortions and used that riff on reality to guide her own interpretations. When Scher started painting her maps, she wanted to create them through her own altered lens, understanding that such inconsistencies were all around her as part of her everyday life—through her own work and the work of others.


Scher’s book of colorful, multilayered paintings present familiar geography in vibrant, thoughtful new ways. Besides being visually stunning, on closer look each map is crammed with geographical information. One titled “International Air Routes” includes airline hubs, flight routes, names of airlines and time zones, while another called “World Trade” outlines ports, trade routes and currencies. The book also features several pages of zoomed-in slices of each painting for closer examination of every angle of the maps.


With the book, Scher takes the reader on a virtual world tour with a twist and her “paintings of distortions” compel us to take a look at the idea of truth within our own reality in the process.

“Maps” is available from Amazon for $30.