Jan Estep, Finding Everett Ruess, Davis Gulch, Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Utah, four-color offset print, illustrated folded sheet map, 2013.
 My fourth illustrated print map describes the disappearance of young artist and naturalist Everett Ruess, who in 1934, at the age of 21, walked off into Davis Gulch and was never seen again. Given the fact that the body was never found, there is much speculation about his fate. The map details local topography and one possible route down into the gulch and includes photographs of the surrounding high-desert landscape. I have retraced Ruess’s steps a few times now and each visit reminds me of the tenuous relationships we sometimes feel between nature and society and the consequences of a deep longing for solitude. An essay discusses Ruess’s life and his attraction to natural beauty, alongside various definitions of wilderness; it also explores how to be connected but free. The front sidebar and back document interventions into the environment and a text poem about desert walking.
Each map in this series investigates a specific place and its found and fabricated histories. They begin with research and reading about a chosen location followed by time spent walking, meditating, drawing, and photographing on site. Each map includes topographical and photographic images, factual and historical information, as well as a long essay about their subjects. While distinct the publications share a few things: the idea of maps as a key to moving through physical and conceptual landscapes simultaneously; the interplay of text and image both in the printed form and in ordinary experience; the way language shapes perception; the blurring between factual didactics and more subjective language; the act of writing as a way to process one’s experience; and the suggestion that language is integral to the physical landscape we apprehend. In form and content the maps exemplify the way independent publishing allows an artist/thinker/writer to create a hybrid vehicle for their ideas.
In exhibition the map is unfolded and stacked on a low pedestal as a free take-away for viewers.