Related themes

Maps, Borders, and Networks

Artists use maps to tell stories about themselves and their views of the world.

Map of America

Juan Downey
(Chilean, 1940–1993)

1975. Colored pencil, pencil, and acrylic on map on board, 34 1/8 x 20 1/4" (86.7 x 51.4 cm)

Instead of depicting national borders, Downey’s Map of America represents the continent of South American as a swirl of colors. As a response to a military coup in Chile, Downey embarked on a journey in 1973, traveling from New York City to the southernmost tip of Latin America. Along the way, the Chilean artist videotaped the cultures he encountered and showed the footage to other locals along the way in the hope that the isolated communities would find commonalities in their everyday experiences.

The footage became the basis for the installation Video Trans America; this map and similar drawings accompanied the videos. In this work, Downey uses the hand-drawn map as a galvanizing symbol to foster a transnational Latin American identity.

The customs, arts, social institutions, and achievements of a particular nation, people, or other social group.

A work of art made with a pencil, pen, crayon, charcoal, or other implements, often consisting of lines and marks (noun); the act of producing a picture with pencil, pen, crayon, charcoal, or other implements (verb, gerund).

A form of art, developed in the late 1950s, which involves the creation of an enveloping aesthetic or sensory experience in a particular environment, often inviting active engagement or immersion by the spectator.

Living in the Amazon
Downey and his family spent some time living in Venezuela among the Yanomami, a group of indigenous people living in the Amazon Rainforest that, before then, had had little contact with Westerners. Downey has described himself as a “cultural communicant” and an “activating anthropologist.”