Ever since I was a kid, I  have loved maps -- especially maps of the United States. They can convey massive amounts of information -- and all different kinds of information -- within them.  The story of our country can be told in maps.

I have never seen maps like the ones graphic designer -- and map maker -- Paula Scher has created for a new exhibit entitled "Paula Scher: USA" that opened earlier this month in New York City. The maps, all 10 of which are acrylic paint on hand-pulled silkscreen, are, literally, crammed with information about who we are as a country -- from our demographics to our airline routes and highway systems and back.

"I chose to interpret one land mass through various forms of data," Scher told me. "The U.S. seemed particularly resonant at this time because we are in the midst of an election cycle and perhaps the spirit in these paintings can lend a clue to how Americans think and behave."

The map above details the demographics and economies of our 50 states, for example. Since the map is so visually overwhelming, it's worth taking a look at a smaller piece of it to see just how much information Scher is conveying. Here's just the South and Southwest:


Pretty cool right?  You can spend an afternoon -- trust me -- just reading everything in that one map above.

I think my favorite Scher map -- it is also the most visually busy, for whatever that's worth -- is this one, which details time zones and area codes.


"They are paintings, not literal fact," said Scher of her work. "But perhaps the locations and data against our knowledge of our history and contemporary society give a new view, or reaffirm an old one." As for whether the paintings are meant as a political statement, Scher replied: "Of course the paintings are political. Isn't everything?"

Well said.

You can see all of Scher's maps here. And if you are in New York City, you can go see the paintings in person until March 26 at the Bryce Wolkowitz Gallery.