Artist Statement: Anders Rodin


I grew up on an island. Always having the ocean in view is kind of like looking at a photograph of the earth from space. It reminds you that there are limits, that we live on a finite amount of space with shorelines and atmospheres that protect us, but that those limits can be pushed.

At a point in every islander’s life, there comes a time to step off the shore and into the unknown. A lot of my art is concerned with home spaces, the exploration of that mystery, and the spaces in-between. There was definitely a time when I thought that home meant that island I grew up on. It took me a long time to realize that my home was perhaps not only that one place, but the ocean, that reminder of distance, of longing, belonging, and the smell of low tide. There are also times that it is very important to think of planet earth as our home, though most of the time it seems that’s a little too abstract for anyone to wrap their head around. I’m not sure I’ll ever know exactly what Home means for me, though I do know that when I’m on the side of a mountain overlooking cliffs and clouds and endless blue horizons, I’m home.

About two years ago, I started making maps. I love them because they remind us of what’s “out there.” They spark our imagination and remind us of places we’ve been and places we’d like to explore. Maps are really similar to language, it’s one of those things you start to take for granted, but they are a huge part of how we interact with our environment and how we find our way. We all make mental maps (animals too! {we think…}), and for thousands of years, humans have been making maps to express those interactions and share them with others. The word cartography is one of my favorites because, like Earth, it has the word art in it. It is the study and practice of making maps, combining science, aesthetics and technique. It is interdisciplinary and usually collaboration is involved. Sounds like something an Evergreen student might do…

[pullquote_left]Google Maps can give you directions from A to B, but what if you want to get lost? [/pullquote_left]

I feel that in some ways my art is a bridge between people and the environment. Whether it’s through a map, a drawing of a pine cone, or a photograph of the forest, most of my art tends to inspire people to think about these natural places and their relation to the natural places in their lives. Best case scenario, those places can be the same for the viewer and the artist. When I made a map of Fidalgo Island (Anacortes), where I grew up, I talked to so many people about places that were on that map. Stories about devil worshippers in caves, myths about the origins of an old breakwater growing trees out of the hull of a ship, natural and human history, the way the sun looks on a particular morning at different places on the island. The map became a kind of vehicle for all kinds of conversations and opportunities. It really took on a life of its own.

I read on the Canadian Cartographers Association’s website once that map making today basically means sitting in front of a computer all day. While I think it’s important that we have maps made by computers, I think it’s still just as important today to have maps made by the human hand. Google Maps can give you directions from A to B, but what if you want to get lost? What if you want to know where the best place to find a blue heron is? When I’m making a map I spend most of my time exploring, and walking around, just simply experiencing a place. Photographs, sketches, writing, and memories all go into a map when I draw it. Maybe that’s impractical, but it’s important to me.

Modern maps and their arbitrary borders and lifeless computer-drawn lines represent one of the many ways our way of thinking has distanced us from our environment. What if we could redraw those borders, taking into account the ebb and flow of the tide on the shorelines, the life of the river, and include the shape of the mountain and the shape of the earth? (By the way, though it is “common knowledge” that Earth is round, I think it’s a very generative exercise to feel the world as we experience it, as flat, as the center of our own little universe, with the sun and moon and stars rotating around us and feeling our roots sink us straight down into the soil…) What if for a moment we could all stop, listen, and discover that we can hear what a plant or an animal has to say? Turn off your cell phone and get lost!

How do we begin to map out a collective vision of the places we share with each other? We begin by stepping back, viewing it from afar, then zooming into this one place, that powerful stranger: Here. It’s the old “think global, act local” deal. (think round, act flat or think flat, act round? … something to think about…) Slow down, put your trust in experience, and imagine what this place would look and feel like if you were a bird. At the very least, climb a tree.