Featured Map Artist: Modern Terrain

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While wandering around the Utah Arts Festival this summer, I stumbled across this unique art stand. Of course, I was looking for map art from the moment I arrived, but I did not expect to find something so unique.

Modern Terrain Stand at the Utah Arts Festival

This artist depicted animals and plants with white contour lines and a background of their native habitat. There were bisons grazing as canvases to Yellowstone topography, a hawk soaring Mt Hood, and pine trees drawn in (what looks like) glass and framed with the artist’s original nature photography. I spent the next minutes admiring the art and imagining where I would hang it on my dream home.

Wildlife of North America Artwork

As the sun was beating down on us, we left and I did not have the chance to speak with the artist. Later that day, I managed to find her Instagram and learned her name was Ryan, an artist from Portland, OR founder of Modern Terrain. I then found her website with more examples of her work. At that moment, I already knew I loved her art, but then I found out about her process! Turns out she reuses old map negatives that once belonged to the US Department of Fish and Wildlife to create the contours/street grids within the most varied shapes.

Denver bike on a Denver Bike Path
Mt. Hood Trees
hiker on mt hood
Mt. Hood Hiker
mt shasta bear
Mt. Shasta Bear

As she explains “They (negatives) were heavy, some were scratched and bent, yellowed and faded, many of them dated back to the 1950’s and 1960’s. The negatives were the maps used to print the paper ones we are so familiar with. They were beautiful and different and I had about 500! I didn’t want to throw them away and I didn’t exactly know what to do with them but I knew I had to do something.”

She then proceeded to explore different ways to repurpose the negatives, “I spent the next 6 months playing with them off and on, I painted on them, cut them into shapes, folded them into folded things and took a silver pen and followed the lines until I had highlighted an entire map.”

She finally decided to stick with white lines and fill in various shapes of animals, plants, bikes, and people! The art is finalized with her own nature photos as the background.

Join me on admiring and supporting this woman-led business!
For more information about her work, reach out to Ryan here.

Map on!


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