21st Century Mapping: An 8 part series ; Part 5: Deep-In-Dance

Image result for bernard cahill butterfly mapI will take the opportunity of this weeks post to share with you a recent project that I have been working on that combines mapping and art, my two areas of focus. After the first week of this blog series, while I was writing about projections, I became intrigued with one in particular – the Waterman butterfly projection. The idea for this projection first came from cartographer Bernard Cahill in 1909 but was later updated to be more accurate by Steve Waterman in 1996. Waterman Butterfly

I am drawn to this map as an artist and a cartographer because it is visually interesting and scientifically accurate. The two ‘wings’ that show the continents provide a more clear idea of the world folding into a sphere, much like an orange peel that is laid flat. Because of this octahedron shape, minimal distortion of scale between the continents occurs with this projection, giving a more realistic understanding of the size of each continent. Unlike the Mercator projection, the Waterman better shows equal area between the Northern and Southern hemispheres. It actually does this better than every other global map projection, having only 10% distortion in distance between things are area of landmasses. So, I took this wonderful map and I gave it the physical manifestation it deserved: As an actual butterfly.


“Deep-in-dance”  ( 27in L x 20in w 18in h ) acrylic plastic 2019

Using iconic blue and green colors to symbolize land and water, I am playing with a history of map language and visual representation. The material, acrylic plastic, relates to our global dependence on plastics and comments on the overuse and wasteful manufacturing of plastic products. I intended for the title to allude to our global communities “dance with the devil” as we continue to use single-use plastic and live in a society that promotes over packaging. The sculpture also explores the ways in which we look at the world and  connect the geographical representation of the globe to the unique creatures on earth.


Each continent or island is its own piece of acrylic set into the larger piece before it is bent to create the arc of the wings. I drew every vector point in illustrator, using a laser cutter to etch and cut out each individual piece.

IMG_0168.jpgThe body and wings of the butterfly are two separate pieces, the wings rest on notches built into the body of the sculpture. In future printings I will edit the body to make it a bit more stable bit I am happy with how it turned out for the first edition.


I will continue to experiment with this sculpture design playing with the colors of the material. The clear aspects of Antarctica were very visually appealing so I am looking to create another sculpture with more clear or neon acrylics. There is a great deal of overlap between art and cartography, most of which has to do with design theory and understanding how to translate data through images. I think the Waterman butterfly sculpture does a great job of representing the world in an engaging way and I hope to see it become more popularized in the future.



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