Monday, July 8, 2013

Am I alone?



I think of my Map as a unique work of art, but maybe I am deluding myself. Some people have compared me to Henry Darger. I'd rather not be lumped with someone who clearly had some faulty wiring. My wiring is intact (self-diagnosed) though the circuits may be complicated.

Am I alone? Do you know of other artists who have basically spent their entire adult years creating a single never-ending work? Made a highly detailed, open-edged, 2000 square foot painting? Shown this work in its entirety only twice in his/its life?

31 comments:

  1. You aren't alone when you show people your wonderful and careful art and the process behind it. It's been great to share in that through this blog.

    Cheers!

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  2. Your creation is most probably unique, but I doubt you are alone. While I do not personally know of any other artists "who have spent their entire adult years creating a single never-ending work", I am sure there are others out there. As an artist, I would consider you a very rare treasure.

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    1. Thanks very much to both of you- Daniel and Aloysius. It's support like yours that keeps me chugging!

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  3. You may be alone in this, but I can think of some roleplayers who've done something similar. There's a guy called Alexis who has spreadsheets, maps and stats to tell you anything you could want to know about the price of trade goods in any hex of his setting. The setting's based on the real world, admittedly, but he's spent years of his life detailing it.

    Some links:

    http://tao-dnd.blogspot.co.uk/search/label/Maps Maps, as the URL implies.
    http://tao-dnd.blogspot.co.uk/2013/04/trade-video-part-1.html A video detailing some of his trade tables.
    http://tao-dnd.blogspot.co.uk/2013/04/southern-kosovo-in-small.html Small-scale map.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vouymrBurBU "Calculating Infrastructure from Population Centres."

    It's really not the same thing as you're doing, but I feel it has some similar elements. You may disagree!

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    1. But I am totally in awe. Thanks for the link!

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    2. I too, thank you for the call out.

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  4. Oh, and his introduction: http://tao-dnd.blogspot.co.uk/2008/05/to-make-world.html

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  5. Hey Jerry, I'm Ben - I wrote you quite a while back & I'm the guy that does the creature cladogram! Although I do consider myself the same kind of person that produces work like you do, mine certainly does not reach the span nor the magnitude that yours does, and is, of course quite different in both content and execution. So, you're certainly unique but maybe nto totally alone! But you're the only other one I've ever found doing anything like this. http://fc04.deviantart.net/fs71/f/2010/153/b/d/H4___Swordsnails_by_whalewithlegs.jpg

    I was actually talking with a friend today, and the conversation reminded me of you - I think I mentioned before that our work, as a side-effect, produces for us something akin to a physical memory palace. I'm sure you can look back at old iterations of your map and summon up a lot of contextual information.

    The comparison to Darger is pretty weak - in essence it's simply comparing the magnitude and dedication; the comparison could just as easily be made to any other sort of project of similar scale, few that there are. But it brings up an interesting idea: that, for us, this exercise might be something similar to making a paracosm. I'm curious - under what conditions did you start doing the map? What was going on in your life, if that's not too personal of a question?

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    1. Hello again, Ben! I was twenty, had a boring job, and doodled in my spare time. It was a tangible representation of my daydreams, I think- places I had never been but had imagined: London, Paris. I was spending my last (or so I thought) summer in Ann Arbor and was leaving for Berkeley that fall- another place I had only pictured in my mind never having been West of the Mississippi. I was leaving a girlfriend and all other things familiar for the unknown.

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  6. Dammit, I give up.

    I remember seeing a sculpture that someone had spent some ridiculous amount of time on (I think it was most of his adult creative career) but now I cant find it.

    But I did find this, it's kinda similar. It's guy who spent 33 years building his 'Ideal Palace'. (link: http://nowiknow.com/the-ideal-palace/)

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    1. I understand him completely. Thanks for the link!

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  7. Jerry, check out this article on Tarn Adams and his brilliant game Dwarf Fortress. He's been working on it with his brother for 7 or 8 years and shows no signs of stopping anytime soon. Though much younger, he has a very similar commitment to his work that you've shown to yours.

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    1. Oops, forgot the link: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/07/24/magazine/the-brilliance-of-dwarf-fortress.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0

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    2. Soooooooo interesting! I'd love to collaborate with someone to turn my Map into a game. Anyone?

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    3. Jerry: I don't know if you saw this, but at a website called Reddit they absolutely love your work:

      http://www.reddit.com/r/todayilearned/comments/1k4527/til_a_man_named_jerry_gretzinger_has_been_drawing/

      A number of commenters seem to be interested in making a game to go along with your map - contacting them might well be your best bet.

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    4. Yes, I am on it, David! I'm thinking of doing a kickstarter to get the money to hire a game developer. But first I need to learn more about the process. Maybe there is someone here in Northern Michigan who would like to meet face-to-face to talk about this possibility? In the meantime I plan to do an AMA on reddit in the next ten days. Maybe something will come out of that.

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  8. It seems there's some refuting of Henry Darger having any sort of faulty wiring. You might actually be fairly similar to him, but like him some people just can't appreciate it and must attribute it to some mental illness.

    I think it's fascinating and shows a dedication to a task I wish I could have. While not quite the same, your work makes me think of J. R. R. Tolkien. He spent considerably time creating Middle Earth, including entire languages.

    I think there's considerably drive amongst all of us to create a sort of world or place and flesh it out over time. There's some stories I started as a kid that while I've not committed them to paper, I've still been adjusting and expanding the world in my own mind. It doesn't seem that large of a leap that some people would translate that into written word, or in your case maps.

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    1. Thanks for the thoughtful comment, Jody. I'd love to collaborate with someone on creating a narrative to accompany my Map.

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  9. Wow, Jerry. That's really all that I can say about your gigantic imaginary world. I am absolutely blown away by this creation of yours. I saw the video for your map from the reddit link mentioned above. What an incredible piece of work. I don't think that I would have the dedication that you put into this each day. I would probably get distracted and forget about it and move on to something else, so kudos to you.

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    1. Thanks, Mike! It's remarkable what 20 minutes a day can produce. That's about how much time I think I have put into this project over the last 50 years.

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  10. Sorry for this being unrelated to your question, but I just had to throw my thoughts to you out there after seeing that video.

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  11. Although not quite as long-lived as your own project, I would check out Dwarf Fortress. It's a video game developed by one guy over the last 12 years. There's nothing else really like it, and it too is a life long project.

    http://www.nytimes.com/2011/07/24/magazine/the-brilliance-of-dwarf-fortress.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0

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  12. While none have ever met the titular goal of not ending, you might find the Never-Ending Stories subforum at the CivFanatics website interesting. There are a few long running worlds that have some impressive histories.

    http://forums.civfanatics.com/forumdisplay.php?f=69

    An interesting world with a long history:
    http://forums.civfanatics.com/showthread.php?t=275725

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  13. I cannot tell if you are wanting perspective and feedback, or if you are questioning the time you have spent on this amazing project. I am sure you do not need a confidence boost because why would a person with such talent ever doubt themselves? But from a human perspective.. maybe I'm wrong.

    So, first question, no. I do not think you are alone. It does not matter specifically what type of art work you have devoted your adult years to. The thing about art is that no one could imitate your work 100%, even if they tried. Your artwork itself is unique to the world, but the feelings that come with it are not. I think every true artist spends their entire lives feeling like their work is never ending. Even if they finish. We are constantly changing, just like your work. If we did not change, then we would make one masterpiece and be done with it.
    And so what if you have only shown your work twice! Gregory Whitmore appreciated what you do enough to make you the subject of his own artistic creation! Which is a lot more than most can say in a lifetime. You have also inspired a 22 year old girl in Oklahoma who is a complete stranger. Which is pretty amazing. :)
    So, thank you. You have opened a whole new door of opportunities in my mind about what I can do with my own art.

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    1. Thanks so much, Ciara, for your comments! No, I am not alone. That is very clear! People all over the world are making maps for all different reasons- to explore their own minds, to create better (or scarier or wilder or weirder) places, to escape, to communicate. I have heard from so many of them, and now my friend Faelan is creating a forum for us. Thanks, Faelan!

      And let yourself go when it comes to your art, Ciara!

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  14. I would probably try to live in Rome but would end up settling down in Danforth so I wouldn't have to commute so far to my job. Still close enough to the river for fishing trips, though...
    -Scott

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  15. Roman Opałka. In 1965, in his studio in Warsaw, Opałka began painting numbers from one to infinity. Until his dead.

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  16. Maybe this will interest you if you haven't already heard of it

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tl%C3%B6n,_Uqbar,_Orbis_Tertius

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