What is the California Field Atlas?

The California Field Atlas is a love story. California is the land where I was born and having spent a happy life walking through its forests and sleeping out under its stars, I hope to someday die, far off trail under some unnamed sequoia. My spirit is of this place and to sing of its living spirit is to sing the most interesting song I’ve ever heard.  Although I’m confident that I understand California’s puzzle-like personality as well as I have ever known anything, I still feel like a novice, an infatuated child, a lost and humbled beggar for its natural wisdom.  I want to hold the whole thing in my hand, like a diamond or like a spinning top, a single piece of the universe to coax into opening up its secrets. In this book, I am participating in the wild reimagining of the place, past the scars inflicted over the past two hundred years and revealing a story about what has always been here and what will remain long after our residency is through. I am a poet and I am painter whose work is based on a mode of naturalist interpretation that builds from hard science to focus the inner lens of truth. With the publication of the California Field Atlas, I present a new portfolio of invented geography laden with a balance of ecology and aesthetics as driving and orienting forces. – Obi Kaufmann

Obi in his office. Photo by Paul Collins @paulnemirahcollins

I have been working on this book my whole life. Many of these maps were sketched ten years ago on scraps of paper and have changed little since while some have gone through ten versions in the last six weeks. The editing process has been at least as challenging as the drafting process, as the refinement of the presented material is at least as valuable as the raw information itself. Each map is a puzzle, but a puzzle meant to be read more than solved. Sit with each map for a moment before you begin to unravel it. Digest the layout and bring the pattern of the information in. I started this project dreaming of presenting California in a compendium of symbols and names; a delivery system of geographic knowledge that is tuned to such a high and efficient frequency that the transmission of knowledge becomes effortless and the information can be more absorbed than interpreted. I have always imagined that with the right lexicon, the knowledge itself might be immediately appreciable, like a rose or a painting. -Obi Kaufmann

Categories: CALIFORNIA