Mapping Wonderlands

Mapping Wonderlands: Illustrated Cartography of Arizona, 1912-1962

Published by the University of Arizona Press in 2013 (purchase here), Mapping Wonderlands explores popular, illustrated sight-seeing maps of Arizona during the first half-century of statehood. Chosen as a Southwest Book of the Year (see the review here), Mapping Wonderlands investigates how imaginary geographies influence our experience of tourism destinations. The book is extensively illustrated with vintage maps and, though it is a work of carefully researched scholarship, is also accessible to a wide readership.


Reading Maps, Writing Landscapes


In April 2010, I defended Reading Maps, Writing Landscapes: Cartographic Illustration in Arizona, 1912-1962 – my doctoral dissertation in design history – at Arizona State University. In fall 2012, a book of the same title will be published by the University of Arizona Press. The text documents and investigates cartographic illustrations of Arizona during the first half-century of statehood.



During my doctoral coursework, I wrote about a variety of subjects related to Arizona tourism and print ephemera: illustrations of the Kino missions, Tumacacori and San Xavier; maps as illustrations in Arizona Highways magazine; representation and identity in the American West; archival sources for illustrated maps; practicing tourism as a scholar and scholarship as a tourist. All of this written work is design work, too. During my first semester at ASU, I designed a document template with space for images and captions down the left-hand side of the page, and body text with footnotes down the right. Brenda Laurel (now at California College for the Arts) calls this designwriting, a term I have adopted to describe my own work.

Near Here: St. Augustine’s Tourist Landscapes


As an MFA student at the University of Florida, I studied graphic design in the context of tourism, visual culture, and place-based art. In March 2006, I exhibited an artist’s book (pictured above) in a small gallery installation design to facilitate reading. Read the Book, said large letters on a wall, and below the inscription stood a cafe table with tall chairs. Visitors to the show did read the book, browsing its 300 pages of interviews, personal narratives, photo montages, typographic samples, and critical analysis.

St. Augustine, Florida, the site where I spent several months touring, photographing, and collecting data, bills itself as the oldest city in the United States. Spanish explorer Ponce de Leon landed “near here” – as signs in the area often say – in 1513. Ostensibly, he and his crew were in search of the quasi-mythical Fountain of Youth. The city’s tourist industry pays homage to its Spanish legacy in a variety of ways, many of which are visible on the contemporary landscape. Architecture, monuments, city planning, and commercial structures and signage all point to the city’s Spanish past. Near Here: Locating History in St. Augustine’s Tourist Landscapes represents the culmination of my M.F.A. research, exploring multi-vocal narratives and their role in visual mythologies of place.

Iteration and Series


In Doing Visual Ethnography (London: Sage, 2001), Sarah Pink argues that images must be considered in context, and in relationship to one another, in order for researchers to understand their anthropological significance. Single images, in other words, don’t tell the whole story. Playa features four series of photographs taken on the beach in Playa del Carmen, Mexico. Each series observes the process of a single quotidian activity: raking trash from the sand, setting up beach chairs in anticipation of off-loading cruise ships, gutting a fish, closing up a street shop. The book’s text is printed on translucent paper that overlays each image series, and incorporates a variety of voices: the autobiographical, quotations from interviews, references to ethnographic theory. The texts explore the relationship between tourists and locals, vacation and labor, resort and workplace – all in the context of spring break week in a Mexican resort town.