A Pictorial Map of Loveland, designed by the map and greeting card maker Ernest Dudley Chase in 1943, has an odd scale: its distances are not determined by miles or kilometers, but by “smiles measured in musical notes.”
The measurement is a little bit silly and, like Loveland itself, perhaps not as blithe or funny as it purports to be. The map presents many scenarios of alliterative Love—a couple holding hands on “Melody Mountain,” skipping across a chasm in “Lover’s Leap,” snuggling up in a convertible on “Joy Ride Road”—yet there is really only one type of love depicted and one set of lovers, an interchangeable duo as porcelain and fragile as the bride and groom toppers on a wedding cake. Ernest is a good name for the maker of this map; so is Dudley. In its insistence upon its charm, its paternal wink and nudge, its chasteness milked with innuendo, the map claims both an innocence and insidiousness. There’s so much to Love, and yet so little.
A Pictorial Map of Loveland shares qualities with several of the maps we found for this issue: they’re dated, heteronormative, usually heart-shaped. These maps don’t really show their age so much as they show the forces that assert themselves throughout the ages. Love is a battlefield or love is a road or love is a game. Love is linear, bird’s eye, and crisply lined. Love is detailed, complex, and in miniature. Love is a retail center in Seattle, as gentrified and comprehensible as city planning. In short, love assumes many types, even in its cliches.
The challenge for our eighth issue was in acknowledging the word’s capaciousness while affixing some boundaries to it. “What is love?” we asked our contributors, knowing that no answer and any answer will do. There’s romantic love, sexual love, filial, platonic, maternal, fraternal, worldly, religious, self-love, love of one’s enemy, love of one’s neighbor, strange love, stranger love. And on and on. Like any abstract concept, love is mutable yet constant, limitless but not without end. For this particular editor, love looks like a summer without AC and with too many cats, though that answer is bound to change. This is why, despite all else, Chase’s choice of scale—the smiles measured in musical notes—is appealing. It admits the sense, and nonsense, of the task undertaken. Love assumes a pictorial form but, as soon as it does, that form resists measurement.
In their own way, the contributors to our eighth issue give shape, form, and resistance to the many types of Love. What is love? Love is “such syntactic change,” “the two-party situation,” the Belle Bonne Sage score. Love is concentric circles around Stromsburg, Nebraska, spaced 150 miles apart. Love is the sky as a map of questions, “what burns, how long, where is the middle without an edge.” Love is the knowledge that “we don’t need a story that matters to anyone else as long as it matters to us.” Love is “so red, and constantly sharpened.” Love is “the nose, the palm of the hands, and the crook of the neck” as a hand removes a sock and “Cardopusher” plays. Love is the town at the bottom of a lake, “long-distance running through the aroma of ten thousand dead cows,” a stranger posting an image of a favorite book. Love is “That is not love, someone says,” or that is not all love can be.
-Thomas Mira y Lopez & Nick Greer
We ask our contributors to construct or respond to a map, but what defines a map and how a contributor chooses to interpret its territory will vary radically with each piece. Here is how things played out for each:
Nina Boutsikaris’ “That's all, I don't even think of you that often” is a response to postcards, song lyrics, and other representations that signify through their absences as much as they do their presences. Derrida called the postcard “a kind of personal message, a secret between us, the secret of reproduction.” The primary postcard that recurs through Boutsikaris’ essay—of the naked woman on a balcony of the Hotel Chelsea—is itself a reproduction of a reproduction. Taken not in the 70s but in 2001 by Andrew Shapter, the postcard’s verso photograph is a deliberate recreation of the squalid energy and attitude of the hotel’s history, one Shapter is not the only to attempt. According to Living with Legends, a Hotel Chelsea blog, “nearly nude girls are constantly prancing around the hotel” and they have the photos to prove it.
Kayleb Rae Candrilli’s “Valentine, Nebraska: Cherry County (Or, my partner and I consider the risks of vacationing alone in the Midwest despite our obvious queerness)” responds to a postcard of Valentine, Nebraska. The postcard touts Valentine as the heart of the Sandhills, in reference to the geological feature that, at 19,000 square miles, accounts for the largest area of sand dunes in the Western Hemisphere. “While other parts of the world scream beauty, the Sandhills whisper,” the Valentine town tourism board advertises. Numerous businesses in Valentine take the Sandhills as part of their title. There’s a Sandhills State Bank, a Sandhills Wireless, and even a Sandhills Family Dental.
Claire Donato’s “Punching Bag” is paired with an untitled piece by Bittertang, a small design firm run by Antonio Torres and Michael Loverich. Bittertang gave the following statement on the piece: “Our work explores multiple themes including pleasure, frothiness, biological matter, animal posturing, babies, sculpture and coloration all unified through bel composto. Our explorations are based in digital and visceral matter with output transitioning between scales and localities, leaving traces of frothy matter in various disciplines. In this untitled piece, a caul fat enclosure creates a scented and oily atmosphere for a skinless cornish game hen to baste within.”
Anaïs Duplan’s “Wundmale Christi (Wounds of Christ)” works off an image of stigmata from the Waldburg-Gebetbuch illuminated manuscript detailing the life cycle of Jesus Christ. The manuscript, published in Germany in 1486, presents a noticeably abstracted version of stigmata, as the hands and feet of Christ emerge from either a set of frilly cuffs or a series of clouds, a detail that shares resonance with the speaker’s invocation of a network of body parts in Duplan’s video-poem. Duplan’s “Wundmale Christi” combines text, moving image, and music; by the late 15th century, illuminated manuscripts were common enough that not all were inlaid with gold and silver, but were printed using only a few inexpensive colors, as appears the case in the Waldburg-Gebetbuch stigmata.
Meg Freitag’s excerpts from The most private thing I’m willing to admit are, in the author’s words, “found poems, composed using lines taken from the OkCupid profiles of men with whom I have a particularly high algorithmic ‘Match.’ Each poem in this project is built around a different profile ‘essay’ prompt, and contains lines pulled from between 10 and 20 profiles. The pieces included here use lines extracted from the first essay prompt in each user’s profile, ‘My self-summary.’ While I've taken some artistic liberty with punctuation as to better serve the poetic formatting, I have not otherwise altered the original text, including editing for spelling or grammar.”
Benjamin Krusling’s “well there is no greater love” is in conversation with a musical work by the 15th century composer Baude Cordier entitled “Belle, bonne, sage.” As in a concrete poem or visual essay, the score for “Belle, bonne, sage” takes the shape of its form: a love song in the shape of a heart. Its image, along with another of Cordier’s scores, rendered in the shape of a compass, form the first two pages of the Chantilly Codex, a collection of medieval music in the Ars subtilior style. While the music’s performance does not alter with the score’s shape, the red notes within the score indicate a rhythmic distinction that would have been otherwise troublesome to notate.
Colter Ruland’s “Interregnum” is an attempt to map the author’s own romantic narrative despite knowing we “are all taking the same paths with only the slightest of variations, sometimes towards the same destinations.” Throughout the essay, Colter refers to his partners and friends by single letters—K, C, P, B, L—a reminder of this non-uniqueness, but one that invites as much as it obfuscates. Variables are unknowns, could be anything, but can be solved for, sometimes using simple formulas. This alternation between known and unknown, singular and multiple, is embedded in the constant transpositions of the piece’s design.
Robin Beth Schaer’s “The Long Now” is a response star charts and the questions they inspire. This type of map is essentially as old as human history, but is having something of a moment now thanks to the ubiquity of mobile computing. Download the Star Chart app on your iOS or Android device and you can join over 30 millions user who enjoy using AR to identify over 120,000 stars and the 88 constellation with overlays “based on the beautiful artwork by 17th century astronomer Johannes Hevelius.” Hevelius’ atlas Firmamentum Sobiescianum sive Uranographia (1690) is one of what have been termed the “big four” star atlases to come out of Europe’s Golden Age of celestial cartography, though the University of Michigan Libraries contends this isn’t as accurate or complete as John Flamsteed’s Atlas Coelestis (1729), which marked a move away from artistic and allegorical representations towards the “featureless” charts that took over in the following centuries.
Erica Trabold’s “Citybuilding” responds to a map from the book, The History of Stromsburg 1872-1972: Centennial Book of the Swede Capital of Nebraska. The book was put together by a group of women from the town and shows a map of the Great Plains overlaid with a series of concentric circles, each spaced 150 miles apart. Stromsburg appears at the center of the circles, both sonar and bullseye.
Elise Winn’s “Bedtime Stories” is disseminated in the form of a Whitman’s Sampler. The brand is well-known for the key or index that appears on the underside of the box lid. Unlike other chocolates, you know exactly what you’re getting with a Whitman’s. In addition, Whitman’s helped market the gifting of a box of chocolates as a romantic gesture, popularizing the slogan “A Woman Never Forgets A Man Who Remembers” in its mid-20th century ads.
In addition to the standard bio, we ask that our contributors share a location that represents them in some way. Collected together they comprise the genius loci of this issue.