Vibrant map artworks mirror the anatomy of the human body

Karen Margolis’s project ‘Maps and Holes’

In these colourful textiles, papery fabric with holes of various sizes overlap each other, mirroring the layered aesthetic of reptile skin. On closer inspection, the material is covered with fine lines, intertwining and flowing all directions, which appear like a map that ought to belong in another world.

Karen Margolis’s project 'Maps and Holes’

Mula – Image ©Karen Margolis

This is the work of Brooklyn-based designer Karen Margolis who uses outdated maps to create textiles which not only explore the changeability of our built environment but also the similarity maps have to the structure of the human body.

Karen Margolis’s project 'Maps and Holes’

Allentown / Bethelem – Image ©Karen Margolis

Margolis has a BSc in Psychology from Colorado State University, where she developed an interest in human neural psychology. Her background in the mind sciences is evident throughout her work where her papery textiles appear similar to neuronal networks and intertwined capillaries.

Karen Margolis’s project 'Maps and Holes’

Douglas – Image ©Karen Margolis

Her project called ‘Maps and Holes’ explores the universality of macro and micro patterns- how materials intertwine and revolve around each other; how interweaving fabric creates a new visual landscape, similar to the process of how neuronal connections form.

aren Margolis’s project 'Maps and Holes’

Lake Champlain – Image ©Karen Margolis

In addition, Margolis also has an interest in Zen Buddhism and her creations explore the paradox of imperfection and the relationship between the body and mind. For Margolis, maps symbolise more than an exterior world, they resemble natural systems that become old and outdated.

Karen Margolis’s project 'Maps and Holes’

Hyotan – Image ©Karen Margolis

Margolis takes worn outdated maps and not only alters their colour but also traces over roadways to enhance their structure. She then burns holes into cities using a soldering iron. It’s this process of destruction and creation from which she forms new visual landscapes.

Karen Margolis’s project 'Maps and Holes’

Parturition Image ©Karen Margolis

Her artistic process mirrors the development and destruction of living matter in the natural world- how bird’s feathers grow then fall, how skin cells overlap then shed, all of which results in new connections and aesthetics being made.

Karen Margolis’s project 'Maps and Holes’

Babaru – Image ©Karen Margolis

Karen Margolis’s project 'Maps and Holes’

detail of Zaohua Image ©Karen Margolis

By burning holes and layering damaged routes on top of each other, different passages emerge, where new connections and routes develop from what was lost.

Words: Anna Marks 


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