The artist Jerry Gretzinger is a man from Northern Michigan with a vision that most would consider obsessive, but it is undoubtedly original. He has been working on a piece of art which is a detailed map of his imaginary world. This map grows every day and is now over 2000 square feet! Jerry’s Map is the magnum opus of this artist, who writes, “I estimate that I have averaged 20 minutes a day over 30 years.”
The charm of this project is that Jerry’s Map is open-ended–a customized deck of cards tells the artist what to add to his project. Every day he picks a card and each card has special instructions about what he will add. Directions include various parts of the cityscape such as, parishes, hospitals, farms, monorails, and most other things you will find in a growing city. The most interesting cards however, are the “Void” cards.
Drawing a “Void” card means Jerry places a white spot on his map. This white spot continues to grow, eating away at the painted city, farmlands, and water around it. He has put together a time lapse video of how a void grows, and says that eventually in the center of a void a “grey bud” forms–the beginnings of a whole new world. Another card in Jerry’s deck calls for construction of special walls that protect cities from being engulfed by voids. Fictitious cities in his world like Plaeides, Wybourne, and the largest, Ukrania are constantly building these walls whenever the deck dictates.
The artist watches as the voids grow and the cities race to protect themselves from nearby voids, a perfect balance of control and dissociation from his own agency in the outcomes of the painting. He explains, “That’s when I step back and say, ‘Well, who’s going to win? Will they be able to build the wall fast enough? What’s going to happen to the towns outside the wall? Will Ukrania be saved?’ I don’t know. I’m watching this struggle. I’m not a religious person, but sometimes I have feelings about that deck of cards. I don’t want it disturbed, because there’s a message in that combination…What comes out of it, I’m very interested in seeing. There’s a reality in there, that’s the future predictor. It’s alive.”
Jerry updates his blog with some news about the state of the cities on his map, including quirky details such as where a new void has formed and how many residents were transported to another dimension. There is a certain earnest nature to this artist, despite a piece that may border along ingenuity and insanity. He thinks of the map as a unique work of art, but modifies, “Maybe I am deluding myself…Do you know of other artists who have basically spent their entire adult years creating a single never-ending work?”