Maps as Metaphor for Self-Discovery

`MY first childhood instinct was toward art, toward making things. Along the way I was geared away from creating; it wasn't seen as an appropriate endeavor for a serious person. My most recent work is about this subtle subversion of creativity. I use common symbols for sacrifice and symbols of innocence to suggest how hard it is to remain true to that creative spark which burns in all of us."

Marina Day rekindled that "spark" late in life, after a career as a highly respected health care professional.

"I was a wife, a mother, and a cancer nurse. I defined myself wholly in terms of what I did for everyone else, but I did not know myself. When suddenly all my roles, all the identities I thought defined me were taken away, I had to ask myself serious questions about who I really was," she says.

Because this was a process of self-discovery, of locating hidden truths, it is somehow appropriate that she chose to put actual maps in her mysterious paintings. Day heat-fuses maps - old ones, new ones, every kind and size - to clear vellum coverings and then paints with thinned oils over this clear surface so that shadows of the maps peer through washes of paint. Vellum is a smooth and translucent surface that helps paint slip and slide loosely over it, giving Day's abstract and figurative imagery its phantom quality.

"Besides being the perfect metaphor for discovery, a map also symbolizes the linear, no-nonsense, goal-oriented ... thinking we associate with the male mystique. A map has a quality of authority: Follow directions, stick to the rules, don't digress, and you will get where you want to go," Day explains. Her amorphous, sensual abstractions painted so carefully over maps exude exactly the opposite - a sense of spontaneity, experience, and thinking.

It is no accident that Day created this work at a time of personal crisis, when she was asking fundamental questions about what it means to be female. They were questions about how a female can manage to be logical and authoritative, yet retain her softness, her intuitive and creative freedom and still wrest a place of power and personal identity in her world and her relationships.

Visual metaphors for this search abound. Often the abstract washes darken to thick atmospheres threatening to completely obliterate the maps beneath; at other times, the pigments open up serenely like thinning clouds at very high altitudes, revealing topographical jargon such as "Warning," "Restricted," or "Hot and Swampy Ground." Simple phrases printed on old maps take on a strange and suggestive poetry.

The rigorous maps and the moody colors hold each other in a strange visual stalemate. Sometimes they strike a momentary harmony.

In the "Wound That Heals," each visual format gives the other life: The veiny lines of an existing map help form a ghostly figure that Day creates out of whites and molten reds.

The artist says that these maps speak to us of journeys that heal, of roads less traveled, of discovery, and always of hope.

She says that these maps stand for the hope of locating and unifying all the parts of the self - male, female, child, adult, one who searches, one who knows.

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